The Future of the U.S. Alliance System

Will It Survive the Trump Presidency?

Polish, U.S., and British flags are seen during a NATO allies' exercise near Torun, Poland, June 7, 2016. Kacper Pempel / Reuters

During the U.S. presidential campaign, Donald Trump frequently expressed his doubts about the usefulness of NATO. Although he said that he didn’t want the United States to pull out of the alliance, his general criticisms of it have left an indelible impression on U.S. allies, for better or worse. His more benign remarks (which others have made before him) involved lambasting the United States’ partners for not paying their fair share of NATO defense. “Only four of 28 other member countries besides America are spending the minimum required two percent on defense,” he said in April while on the campaign trail. Trump has also suggested that NATO “doesn’t really cover terrorism like it’s supposed to.”

The president-elect’s coarser attacks—such as calling NATO “obsolete”—have struck hard at NATO’s fundamentals. And more ominously, he has repeatedly made the United States’ defense guarantee a purely

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