It is “premature” for NATO allies to make “conclusions” about the impact of Donald Trump’s potential return on the military alliance, its US Ambassador has told Euronews.
Julianne Smith told Euronews in an interview on Thursday that she would “hesitate to make any predictions” about November’s US presidential elections.
“There’s always the difference between what candidates say on the campaign trail and what actually transpires should they assume a leadership role,” Smith said from NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.
Her remarks came as former US president and current Republican frontrunner Donald Trump widened his lead over Biden in the early polls.
Trump, a NATO sceptic, has claimed that if he took over at the White House, he could settle the war in Ukraine within 24 hours.
Smith said allies should look “not at a single individual or a single candidate,” but rather at polling data that suggests that the vast majority of the American public strongly back the alliance.
Fears are growing in Europe that a Trump comeback could severely disrupt the West’s tightly aligned policy on Ukraine, and damage the renewed sense of purpose NATO has assumed since Russia’s invasion.
Trump has previously flirted with the idea of pulling the US – NATO’s biggest contributor – out of the alliance.
Earlier this month, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton revealed that while serving as US President in 2020, Trump told European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen that the US would not help Europe if it was attacked.
“You need to understand that if Europe is under attack we will never come to help you and to support you,” Trump reportedly said during the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, adding that “by the way, NATO is dead.”
Trump’s former US national security adviser John Bolton also told American newspaper the Hill last August that the US will leave NATO if Trump wins this year.
But Smith says it is “premature to make certain conclusions,” and that the alliance will “grapple with it down the road.”
As the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches, both the US and the European Union’s financial support plans for Ukraine are being held up due to political resistance.
The US is Kyiv’s biggest donor of military and financial aid, but the support has been stalled due to calls from some cohorts of the Republican party to scale back on payments, putting further pressure on the EU to approve its €50-billion fund, currently held up by Hungary.
Earlier this month, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo warned the European Parliament that Donald Trump’s return could leave Europe “on its own,” and that Europeans should not fear but “embrace it by putting Europe on a more solid footing, stronger, more sovereign, more self-reliant.”
But when it comes to NATO, Smith suggested Europeans can rest assured that US backing for the alliance will continue regardless of whether the White House administration changes hands.
“The one thing where you find Republicans and Democrats coming together is actually on NATO issues,” she explained. “We see strong and deep support for the NATO alliance on the right, on the left and everywhere in between.”
We have “assurances” from Hungary
Smith also expressed confidence that Sweden’s bid to join NATO will be approved swiftly.
Sweden first applied to join in May 2022 in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but its bid has been stalled due to resistance by Turkey and Hungary.
Turkey’s parliament approved Sweden’s bid on Tuesday after holding out for months over claims Stockholm was harbouring Kurdish militants responsible for a failed coup in Ankara in 2016.
The move put pressure on Hungary to follow suit, with Orbán vowing to urge the Hungarian Parliament to swiftly ratify Sweden’s accession.
Earlier on Thursday, Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson accepted an invitation to meet Orbán in Hungary.
“We do have assurances from Hungary that they are going to move forward and get this done,” Smith said.
“Hungarians understand, Prime Minister Orbán understands we are all stronger with Sweden inside this alliance. It’s good for Sweden and it’s good for the NATO alliance. I’m confident that we’re going to get there,” she added.