President Trump discussed with advisers the possibility of withdrawing from NATO on multiple occasions in 2018, the New York Times reported Monday evening.
Trump, who has ignored convention by heavily criticizing NATO allies and publicly questioning their commitment to the collective defense, repeatedly told advisers that he didn’t understand the point of the alliance in the days leading up to the most recent NATO summit in July.
A number of senior advisers, including John Bolton and former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, were successful in convincing Trump of the negative geo-political implications associated with a NATO withdrawal. While Trump heeded his advisers warnings with respect to withdrawal, the president continues to view the alliance through a strictly transactional lens, wherein the U.S. is being forced to pay more than its fair share.
Concern among national security officials regarding Trump’s vision for NATO has grown in recent days in the wake of reports that the president tried to keep his conversations with Vladimir Putin secret even from his own advisers, confiscating his interpreter’s note and instructing him not to share details of the meeting with anyone.
Mattis’s retirement has also unsettled his fellow national security officials and America’s NATO allies alike, as the general was viewed as a calming influence in the White House who could communicate the importance of the NATO alliance when necessary.