Monday Briefing

Donald Trump’s statement stunned many in Europe. Credit…Sean Rayford for The New York Times

Trump’s outburst alarmed NATO allies

Donald Trump said over the weekend that, while president, he told NATO allies that he would “encourage” Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to countries that had not paid the money he claimed they owed to the military alliance.

Trump’s statement, made at a campaign rally in South Carolina, seemed to cast NATO as more of a protection racket than an alliance. It stunned many in Europe, where nations have been developing military capabilities in case U.S. support proves unreliable.

Trump has long called for the U.S. to leave NATO and questioned American support for foreign allies. National security veterans of both parties said that such thinking misunderstands the value of the alliances for the U.S.

Never before has an American president — even a former one aspiring to reclaim the White House — suggested that he would incite an enemy to attack American allies. If Trump’s statement is to be believed, his potential re-election this year may fundamentally alter the world order.

Possible consequences: Abandoning NATO allies could effectively end the security umbrella that has long guarded friends in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East; it could also negate the value of mutual security agreements with countries like Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Argentina, Australia and Panama.

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