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Stoltenberg: US to remain staunch NATO ally

by Martin Fornusek and Teah Pelechaty February 15, 2024 6:05 PM 3 min read
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference at NATO headquarters during the first of two days of defense ministers' meetings on Feb. 14, 2024, in Brussels, Belgium. (Omar Havana / Getty Images)
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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Feb. 15 said that the popular support for the alliance is at a record high in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, a Kyiv Independent journalist reported.

Stoltenberg's statement at the NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels comes days after Donald Trump, the Republican Party's hopeful for the upcoming U.S. presidential election, raised concerns with anti-NATO comments.

Trump, whose skepticism of the alliance was apparent already during his previous tenure in the White House, said he would encourage Russia to do "whatever the hell they want" to any NATO member country that does not hit the 2% of GDP defense spending mark.

Stoltenberg said that he expects "the United States to continue to be a staunch ally for at least three reasons."

"First, it is in the national security interest of the United States to have a strong NATO. Second, there is actually broad bipartisan support for NATO in the United States," Stoltenberg said.

As the third reason, the secretary-general said that the recently voiced criticism was not aimed primarily against NATO but against allies who are not spending enough money on collective defense.

Trump says he would urge Russia to ‘do whatever the hell they want’ to NATO countries that fail to meet financial obligations
Former U.S. President Donald Trump said on Feb. 10 if reelected, he would endorse Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO member countries failing to meet defense spending criteria, in a declaration indicating his disregard for the alliance’s collective-defense principle.

Stoltenberg believes it to be "a valid point and a fair case to raise from the U.S. side that European allies and Canada did not spend enough."

The secretary-general stressed that this trend is beginning to change with record-high defense investments and as more allies are meeting the 2% target. Stoltenberg said earlier this week that 18 of the 31 NATO members are expected to meet the threshold this year, an increase of seven countries compared to 2023.

Trump's influence has impact not only within NATO but also on the U.S. support for Ukraine. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, considered close to the Trumpist faction within the Republican Party, continues opposing the foreign aid bill approved by the Senate, which contains $60 billion in support for Ukraine.

According to Stoltenberg, the package will most likely be approved "because there is a broad majority in the Congress for supporting Ukraine."

"I visited the United States and spent much time in Congress meeting politicians from both sides of the line, and they confirmed the message that there is actually broad support for Ukraine," the secretary-general said.

"I also met with the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, and we actually agreed on a joint statement that clearly stated that President (Vladimir) Putin must not win in Ukraine."

Stoltenberg pointed out, however, that the lack of decision by Congress already has consequences on the ground, as it impacts the flow of support to Ukraine.

"To some extent, this can be compensated by increased support from other allies, and the European allies and Canada are stepping up, are doing more… but with the United States being by far the biggest ally, of course, it is vital that they continue to provide support."

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