© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the National Rifle Association (NRA) Presidential Forum at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 9,
(This Feb. 12 story has been corrected to specify that the size of the German defence fund is 100 billion euros in paragraph 19)
By Andrew Gray and Sabine Siebold
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Former U.S. President Donald Trump raised a storm of criticism from the White House and top Western officials for suggesting he would not defend NATO allies who failed to spend enough on defence and would even encourage Russia to attack them.
Here are the answers to some key questions about NATO, the comments by Trump – who is running for another term in the White House in November and leading President Joe Biden in some polls – and their implications.
WHAT IS NATO?
Founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union with Cold War tensions rising, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a political and military alliance of countries from North America and Europe.
Enshrined in Article 5 of its founding treaty is the principle of collective defence – the idea that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all of them.
NATO takes decisions by consensus but the political and military strength of the United States means that it is by far the most powerful country in the alliance, with its nuclear arsenal seen as the ultimate security guarantee.
WHICH COUNTRIES ARE IN NATO?
NATO currently has 31 members – most of them European nations, plus the United States and Canada.
The newest member is Finland, which joined last April in reaction to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Sweden applied to join along with Finland but is waiting for Hungary to ratify its application as the final major step before membership.
During the Cold War, NATO’s main focus was protecting Western Europe from the Soviet Union. After the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO expanded to take in former communist bloc countries from Central and Eastern Europe.
NATO’s members range from large countries such as Britain, France, Germany and Turkey to small nations such as Iceland and Montenegro.
WHAT DID TRUMP SAY ABOUT NATO?
As U.S. president from 2017-21, Trump often lambasted NATO and members such as Germany, accusing them of not paying enough for their own defence and relying on Washington to protect them. He openly questioned the collective…