“They had a quote from me that NATO’s obsolete. But they didn’t say why it was obsolete. I was on Wolf Blitzer, very fair interview, the first time I was ever asked about NATO, because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right?” Trump said to the AP, according to a full transcript published late Sunday.
“So they asked me, Wolf … asked me about NATO, and I said two things. ‘NATO’s obsolete’ — not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO — NATO is obsolete, and I said, ‘And the reason it’s obsolete is because of the fact they don’t focus on terrorism.’ You know, back when they did NATO, there was no such thing as terrorism,” Trump continued.
The 67-year-old North Atlantic Treaty Organization does in fact have a focus on counter-terrorism and issued its first formal declaration on the issue in 1980. The alliance also invoked Article 5 — which commits NATO countries to help any member state under attack — one day after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S in 2001.
NATO also made a change to its terrorism blueprint in 2012, when it stated that “the Alliance strives at all times to remain aware of the evolving threat from terrorism; to ensure it has adequate capabilities to prevent, protect against, and respond to terrorist threats.”
Trump first criticized NATO during an interview with The Washington Post’s editorial board in March 2016, saying NATO “as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved.”
Following the March 22, 2016, terrorist attacks in Brussels, where at least 35 were killed and more than 300 injured, Trump told ABC News he thought NATO was “obsolete.”
“NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger — much larger than Russia is today,” he said, adding that the alliance should be “readjusted to take care of terrorism.”
But earlier this month, at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump said the alliance is “no longer obsolete.”
Trump said he will continue to work closely with NATO allies, particularly when it comes to fighting terrorism.
But he also said, “I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change and now they do fight terrorism.”
“I said it was obsolete,” he continued. “It is not longer obsolete.”
At the time, Trump also reiterated his call for NATO allies to “meet their financial obligations and pay what they owe.”
Trump will attend a NATO summit in Brussels on May 25.
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