Report: Trump plans to pull U.S. out of or scale back involvement in NATO in second term

 October 24, 2023

Former President Donald Trump has long been highly critical of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a Cold War-era military alliance that some view as both becoming obsolete in the current day and having dramatically expanded beyond its original scope.

Now there is talk that Trump, should he win another term as president in 2024, would actively work toward pulling the United States out of NATO or, at the very least, substantially scale back U.S. involvement in NATO's activities, according to Rolling Stone.

Trump plans to withdraw from or reduce involvement in NATO

Throughout former President Trump's term in office, he routinely criticized NATO, originally formed as a military counterweight to the Soviet Union in Europe, as being outdated, and frequently criticized other European member nations for failing to fulfill their obligations in terms of defense spending and contributions to the alliance.

He also occasionally threatened to withdraw the U.S. from NATO in response to the perceived shortcomings of other members, though those threats were often thwarted by officials within his own administration and later walked back.

In a second term, however, per Rolling Stone's unnamed sources, Trump would work to make good on those prior threats to either completely pull out of NATO or at least devolve U.S. participation in the alliance to a sort of "standby" mode -- assuming, of course, that other NATO member nations refuse to accede to his demands for them to contribute more and pull their own weight within the organization in terms of the defense of Europe.

"He still wants out" of NATO, though it was unknown if he "actually would follow through" in that regard, according to one anonymous Trump adviser, who added, "But he wants a policy team around him nowadays that is much, much tougher on NATO than anything he’s done in the past. That’s one difference."

Pro-Trump think tank outlines policy plan for future "dormant" NATO

As evidence of former President Trump's purported plans to completely withdraw from or scale back U.S. involvement in NATO in a prospective second term in the White House, Rolling Stone pointed to a policy paper published in February by a Trump-aligned think tank known as the Center for Renewing America.

That policy paper, titled "Pivoting the US Away from Europe to a Dormant NATO," laid out the arguments for why NATO had become too bloated by bureaucracy and domestic politics, as well as that the unnecessarily provocative expansion of the alliance was no longer needed to contain the prior continent-wide threat posed by the defunct Soviet Union that is now a shadow of its former self in the current form of Russia.

The paper ultimately made the case for why European nations should take the lead role in providing security for the European continent, with the U.S. only providing a logistical and naval backstop in order to keep shipping lanes open while focusing most of its attention on the Indo-Pacific region and countering the rising threat of communist China -- essentially leaving a scaled-back structure of NATO "dormant" but still able to be resuscitated if and when a need arose.

Rolling Stone reported that the think tank's policy paper has been circulated among those in Trump's circle, and one anonymous former Trump administration official who is linked to the 2024 campaign acknowledged to the outlet, "There were some ideas in it that the [former] president liked."

Bolton predicts Trump will try to withdraw U.S. from NATO

The Rolling Stone is certainly not alone in suggesting that former President Trump would, at the very least, make an attempt to withdraw from NATO or substantially reduce U.S. participation in the alliance.

In August, according to The Hill, Trump's former National Security Adviser John Bolton, now among the former president's fiercest critics, boldly predicted, "In a second Trump term, we’d almost certainly withdraw from NATO."

Of course, even if a re-elected Trump does manage to surround himself with advisers who are tougher on NATO than those who served in his first term, it seems highly unlikely that Trump would actually be able to completely withdraw the U.S. from NATO.

Part of that is because, though wildly expanded beyond its original scope, there remains some semblance of an underlying need for U.S. involvement in a European military alliance, to say nothing of the fact that Trump would undoubtedly face staunch opposition against such plans by Congress, the military, the defense industry, and an assortment of interest groups and think tanks.

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