DAfter Donald Trump's statement about NATO's duty to provide assistance, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell emphasized that the military alliance cannot depend on the mood of the US President. “NATO cannot be an 'à la carte' military alliance,” Borrell said on Monday before the start of an informal meeting of EU development ministers in Brussels. It cannot mean “yes now, no tomorrow”. The alliance exists or it does not exist.

The former American president and most promising candidate for the Republican presidential nomination reported on Saturday at a rally in the US state of South Carolina about an unspecified meeting with the president of a NATO state.

Flasbarth: Additional responsibility for Europe

Trump said: “One of the presidents of a great country stood up and said, 'Well, sir, if we don't pay and we get attacked by Russia, will you protect us?' I said, 'You haven't paid, you're delinquent?'” Trump reported. In that case he will not protect the country. Trump said he would even encourage Russia to do “whatever they want.”

The former American president had repeatedly emphasized in the past how unfair it was that the USA had to stand up for the defense of the 30 other member states. Above all, he criticized the fact that the Europeans were not spending enough money on armaments.

The German State Secretary for Development Jochen Flasbarth (SPD) said on Monday in Brussels that the message that the EU was sending with the recently agreed financial aid for Ukraine was all the more important given the current situation in the USA. “It is unclear to what extent the USA will be able to perform both militarily and civilly in the future,” said Flasbarth. This would place additional responsibility on Europe itself.

German foreign policy experts had previously expressed dismay at Trump's statement and warned against the former US president's re-election. Former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) said the statement was like an invitation to Putin to test the defense alliance. “He won’t test us in Germany, but perhaps in the Baltics,” warned Gabriel on Deutschlandfunk on Monday.

“Trump's erroneous statements about the US's contractual obligations in the event of an attack on a NATO member prove once again how unpredictable, unscrupulous and unreliable he is,” said the German government's transatlantic coordinator, Michael Link (FDP), to the “Tagesspiegel”.

It is all the more important “that the EU and NATO prepare for all possible scenarios and do everything they can to make the EU and NATO more capable of acting and more competitive,” Link added.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael Roth (SPD), sees Trump's threats as a wake-up call to invest more in defense. “Hopefully everyone in Europe will wake up now! Sugar-coating and burying your head in the sand is not a strategy,” Roth told the newspaper. “If Trump really moves back into the White House, anything can be expected. Even with the worst,” he warned.

Röttgen calls for preparation for Trump's election victory

If Trump relativizes the alliance commitment resulting from Article Five of the NATO Treaty, he will “open the door to Russian imperialism.” There is an “acute danger for all of us in NATO,” Roth told the “Tagesspiegel” and demanded that the Europeans must “now, above all, support Ukraine’s fight for freedom more resolutely and far-reaching.”

The CDU foreign policy expert Norbert Röttgen warned in the “Bild” newspaper that Germany must “prepare for the possibility that Donald Trump wins the US election in the fall.” This would plunge NATO into an existential crisis because Trump sees the defense alliance in purely transactional terms, said the former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag. “Anyone who, from his point of view, does not pay enough will not be protected by the USA.” From Trump’s point of view, he declares states that do not pay “fair game. This primarily refers to us Germans.”

Germany must therefore “understand that we will soon have no choice but to defend ourselves at a time when there is war in Europe. We have to do this as Europeans because anything else would be a capitulation to Putin,” said Röttgen. In concrete terms, this means “that we have to massively increase arms production in Europe,” he demanded.