Donald Trump’s calls for rethinking NATO and the United States’ involvement in it have, like so many of his ideas, stirred controversy.
Given that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an institution relied on for security and peacekeeping, it’s no surprise that some reacted with alarm and condemnation.
Among them was the Democratic frontrunner for president, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Campaigning in Milwaukee on March 28, 2016, Clinton declared that the Republican front runner "wants us to pull out of NATO."
In recent days, Trump has repeatedly called NATO obsolete, saying it should be restructured. He has complained that the United States is paying too large a share of the organization’s costs. And, when pressed, he has said that if changes aren’t made if he is president, he might consider pulling the U.S. out of NATO.
But is there evidence to back Clinton’s claim that Trump actually wants to pull out?
NATO and its costs
NATO was created in 1949, with the United States as one of the 12 founding members, largely to provide collective security against expansionism by the Soviet Union. The alliance, which now has 28 members, aims to protect freedom and security of its members through political and military means.
Cost-sharing has been an issue.
In 2014, Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, now the speaker of the House, claimed that all 28 members of NATO have "pledged to spend at least 2 percent of their economy on defense," but only Britain, Greece and the United States do so. We rated his statement Mostly True (Estonia also met that threshold.).
Clinton made her claim days after Trump made headlines with comments about NATO in separate interviews with major news organizations.
The New York businessman told the Washington Post editorial board on March 21, 2016, that U.S. involvement in NATO may need to be significantly diminished in the coming years, the Post reported.
"We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore," Trump said, adding later, "NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money."
Later that week, Trump told New York Times reporters that NATO is "unfair, economically, to us," and said he was open to an alternative organization focused on counterterrorism.
"So, NATO is something that at the time was excellent," he said. "Today, it has to be changed. It has to be changed to include terror. It has to be changed from the standpoint of cost because the United States bears far too much of the cost of NATO."
When pressed, as Clinton’s campaign pointed out, Trump has also indicated he would consider pulling the United States out of NATO.
In a March 30, 2016, town hall event in Green Bay (where Trump said women who have abortions should be punished), moderator Chris Matthews twice tried to clarify with if Trump, as president, would "walk" if he couldn’t negotiate desired changes in NATO.
"If we have to walk, we have to walk," Trump said.
That statement came two days after Clinton made her claim, so it wasn’t evidence she could point to in making her statement.
But even that is short of Trump saying he wants to pull the United States out of NATO.
Clinton says Donald Trump "wants us to pull out of NATO."
Trump certainly has opened the door to that possibility, suggesting that if reforms aren’t made to mission and cost sharing, he might consider pulling the United States out of the organization. But he hasn’t gone to say he wants to pull the United States out.
We rate Clinton’s statement Mostly False.
PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Only 3 of NATO's 28 members spend what they promised on defense, Rep. Paul Ryan says (Mostly True)," June 19, 2014
Washington Post, "Trump questions need for NATO, outlines non-interventionist foreign policy," March 21, 2016
New York Times, "In Donald Trump’s Worldview, America Comes First, and Everybody Else Pays," March 26, 2016
New York Times, "Highlights From Our Interview With Donald Trump on Foreign Policy," March 26, 2016
MSNBC, transcript of Green Bay town hall meeting with Donald Trump, March 30, 2016
Email, Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin, March 31, 2016
Hillary Clinton campaign speech in Milwaukee, March 28, 2016
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