MacDill Air Force Base (VG) The NATO commander has come to America to promote the United States and Europe's need for each other. He does not allow himself to be stressed by Donald Trump's criticism of NATO.
In the rows of seats in the conference room sit the officers who command the world's leading special forces.
Now they are waiting for the man who will tell them what they are fighting for.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visits the main US Special Forces Command base in Tampa, Florida.
Stoltenberg gets on the microphone, and will repeat the message he spent the past week spreading in the United States:
-The world has become a more dangerous place in recent years. But NATO has become stronger. “It's important for Europe, but it's also important for the USA,” says Stoltenberg.
This week, Stoltenberg traveled from Washington, D.C., in the north, to Florida in the south, to gather support from American politicians and the military.
It is no longer normal for the United States, NATO's most powerful and important member state, to be at odds with Europe.
In Congress, a number of NATO-skeptical Republicans are gaining more and more power.
US aid to Ukraine stopped due to the political crisis led by the more conservative Republicans.
Former President Donald Trump says frankly that it is not certain that he would support continued membership in NATO, if re-elected.
In this exclusive interview with VG, Stoltenberg says:
- Why he believes American support is critical to NATO's future.
- How did he manage to work with Trump the last time he was in power?
- Why is he confident that Trump will not separate from NATO, no matter what he says?
Depends on the United States
“These are highly trained elite soldiers, the best of their kind in the whole world,” Stoltenberg tells VG about the US Special Forces.
The US Army is the backbone of NATO. He continues by saying that the country has an impressive defense industry that is unparalleled in the world.
Is it even possible to imagine NATO without the United States?
– No, NATO aims to connect North America and Europe together, so the United States is very important. In theory, it is possible to have a NATO without the USA, but it would be a completely different NATO and would not be able to provide a reliable security guarantee.
– Donald Trump said that if elected, US membership in NATO “will be decided on the basis of how Europe treats us.” Do such statements worry you?
Donald Trump has a different style than many other politicians. This isn't the first time he's said things that make someone uncomfortable. But I worked with him for four years, and what actually happened is that the United States increased its military presence in Europe during that period.
Stoltenberg says he feels confident that regardless of the results of the US presidential election, the United States will remain a strong NATO ally.
He sees three reasons for this:
– First, because it is in the interest of the United States, second, because there is strong cross-party support for NATO in the United States, and third, because you have to listen to what Trump says, which is that European countries do not do that. It paid enough for NATO, but fortunately a lot happened there.
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-To be completely clear: If Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, do you feel confident that the United States will continue to be part of NATO?
– Yes, the United States is still committed to NATO. Because it is in the interest of the United States to be in NATO, as I said.
– Trump reportedly said in a meeting with European Union leaders that “the United States will never come to Europe’s aid.” What do you think that?
– I attended many meetings with President Trump, and we also had some extensive discussions. He often criticized NATO countries, but never said anything along those lines.
-So it surprised you that this came to light?
– I've never heard anything like it. What I heard primarily was that European countries paid less than they should have, which was a legitimate criticism. Obama said that, Trump said that, and Biden said that. And when did the Europeans finally start paying more?
– Can you describe what your relationship with Trump was like when he was president?
– I had a structured working relationship with him, and together we achieved important things in terms of increasing defense investments and increasing the American presence in Europe.
So I will not hide the fact that my mission as Secretary General of NATO is to maintain a grand coalition of very different political leaders from both sides of the Atlantic. So you have to find a way to unite yourself, and I was interested in that with him.
– How is your relationship with President Joe Biden?
-I also have a good working relationship with him. We come together and achieve many things together, whether increased defense investments or full-fledged efforts toward Ukraine.
Stoltenberg believes that US support for NATO can be explained by self-interest:
– The United States represents a quarter of the global national product, but together with our allies in NATO, we represent half of the value creation in the world, and more than half of the global military power.
– No other major power has what the United States has in NATO, that is, more than 30 friends and allies. China and Russia have nothing similar. NATO is good for Europe, but it is also very good for the United States.
-But do you get this message while you are here?
– Yes, I feel that it is a well-received message, because there is also a large majority among Republicans who agree with it.
US support for Ukraine is stuck in Congress because Republicans refuse to accept Biden's package. This worries Stoltenberg.
– It is crucial that the United States decide to continue providing support to Ukraine. That's one of the reasons I was here for several days, to spend some time, not least in Congress, advocating for this.
– It is a tragedy for the Ukrainians if Putin wins, but it is also dangerous for us in Europe and the United States. It will motivate authoritarian leaders to use more power.
– After meeting with Republican politicians such as Congress President Mike Johnson, how confident are you that the United States will fulfill its obligations?
– I did not receive any guarantees, but I expect that Congress will reach an agreement that allows continued support.
Correction: In the original case, VG quoted Jens Stoltenberg as saying: “Yes, I feel confident in Trump.” This does not mean correct. Stoltenberg said he feels confident that regardless of the results of the US presidential elections, the United States will remain a strong NATO ally. This was corrected at 15:47.
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