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Trump's plan for NATO, outlined by experts in his inner circle

Former national security officials and defense experts who could be part of a potential new Trump administration anticipate a plan to drastically reform NATO in which Washington would play a much diminished role in relation to Europe, Politico reports

According to Dan Caldwell, an expert familiar with the views of those in the former president's national security circle, they would aim for a "radical reorientation" of NATO, in the context in which the US is faced with increasing debt, declining military recruitment and a base lagging behind Russia and China.

Thus, the main topic of debate in Trump's circle is how much the US should push Europe towards a security architecture close to the former US president's vision.

A plan for NATO

According to the anticipated plan, the US would retain its nuclear umbrella over Europe, maintaining its air power and bases in Germany, England and Turkey, as well as naval forces. Meanwhile, most of the infantry, armor, logistics, and artillery would eventually fall into European hands.

Components of that plan appeared in an article published in February 2013 by the Trump-affiliated Center for American Renewal, but a broader consensus has since emerged on certain details of the plan.

The main shift involves a substantial reduction in the US security role to one of support in times of crisis rather than the primary provider of combat power in Europe, explained Caldwell, a former adviser to Russell Vought, the policy director of the Republican National Convention. and expected to receive high office in an eventual second Trump administration.

The plan calls for a two-tier NATO system, based on the proposal by former retired military official Keith Kellogg that member countries that do not yet meet the 2% defense target of GDP will not enjoy "US security guarantees". a national security expert aligned with Trump said on condition of anonymity. The assumption in this case is that Article 5 on mutual defense is interpretable and does not require each individual member to respond militarily.

Trump recently appeared to actually invite a Russian attack on non-compliant NATO countries, warning that he would "encourage" the Russians to "do whatever the hell they want" with member countries that have not yet reached the 2% threshold of GDP on defense spending, a decade after NATO allies pledged to do so at their 2014 summit in Wales.

The United States is by far the largest sponsor of NATO operations, with about $860 billion on defense, or 68% of total spending by NATO members in 2023. A substantial part of this amount, amounting to about 3.5 % of US GDP goes to Europe's defense, says Jeremy Shapiro, director of research at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Following a meeting with US President Joe Biden in Washington earlier this month, outgoing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that 23 of NATO's 31 members are set to reach the alliance threshold. "It's more than double what it was four years ago," he explained. Among them is expected to be Germany for the first time since the early 1990s, whose defense minister, Boris Pistorius, has even called for Germany to spend 3.5% of GDP on defence.

Europe must take on more of the defense burden

Some Trump-aligned pundits focus mainly on the issue of spending, while others want European countries to spend more but shoulder much more of the military burden.

We want an active NATO but one that has Europe at the forefront, as the Alliance was originally conceived by Dwight Eisenhower, explains Elbridge Colby, former coordinator of Trump's National Defense Strategy, explaining that the Europeans must assume a more consistent financial burden.

The US does not have enough military forces and cannot confront the Russians in Europe while knowing that " the Chinese and the Russians are cooperating, and the Chinese are a more dangerous and significant threat."

Kiron Skinner, Trump's former head of political planning and a key player in Project 2025, an agenda for Trump's second term, points out: " We need to resize America's role in the world in the 21st century, and that's what I think about it's about ," she said.

"NATO has a significant contribution to make in the Atlantic theater and the Indo-Pacific theater, but we need to have more strategic thinking on both sides," she added.

A peace deal in Ukraine

Another important component of the plan is a quick resolution of the conflict in Ukraine through an agreement whereby NATO commits that it will no longer expand to the east, through the accession of Ukraine and Georgia, but also negotiations with Vladimir Putin regarding the Ukrainian territories on to keep them, two Trump-aligned national security experts said on condition of anonymity.

"I would expect a very quick agreement to end the conflict," said Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, the influential Trump-aligned think tank that produced Project 2025.

Still, according to one of the national security experts familiar with Trump's thinking, speaking on condition of anonymity, Trump "would be open to a [solution] that would prevent NATO expansion and Ukraine from returning to the 1991 borders for Ukraine. That would be on the table. But that does not mean giving up every other possibility, including supplying large quantities of weapons to Ukraine."

Trump himself has not publicly detailed his plans for Ukraine, but on the campaign trail he repeatedly promised to end the war "even before we get into the Oval Office, shortly after we win the presidency," he told a rally on June 22 in Philadelphia. Asked on a June 21 podcast if he was willing to give up on NATO expansion into Ukraine, Trump replied that the promise of Ukraine joining NATO was a "mistake" and "the reason this started war".

Many in the Trump camp openly prefer a non-NATO Ukraine. "NATO has already expanded far beyond what we need for an anti-hegemonic coalition" against Russia, Colby said.

Trump said in a video posted in March that "we must complete the process that we started under my administration to fundamentally reassess the purpose of NATO and the mission of NATO." Trump also recently told Nigel Farage, his supporter British far-right, that the US will remain "100%" in NATO under his leadership, as long as European countries "play fair".

On June 14, Putin said Russia would be prepared to negotiate an end to the war if Ukraine abandons any ambitions to join NATO and withdraws its troops from the four regions Moscow has claimed as its own. Asked in the June 27 debate with Biden whether such conditions were acceptable, Trump replied: " No, they are not acceptable. But look, this is a war that should never have started."

The past warning of Zbigniew Brzezinski to the U.S.

One of the world's foremost geopolitical experts, Zbigniew Brzezinski, wrote after the fall of the Soviet Union that the loss of Ukraine to the USSR was incalculable damage and that NATO should not, in the future, annex it into the alliance because it would destabilize the area leading to a potential ad war with the RussianFederation. Brzezinski also served as national security adviser during Jimmy Carter's presidency from 1977 to 1981. At that time he said the geopolitical pillars the United States would have to preserve to contain Russian and Chinese totalisms behind a steel chain.

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