Rep. Mike Turner on Wednesday offered hopeful words about President-elect Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO, praising Trump’s commitment both to increasing military spending and demands that NATO partners beef up their investment in the alliance.
The message was a contrast to the substance of Trump’s comments about NATO during the campaign.
Turner, speaking at the Hudson Institute, a nonpartisan D.C.-based think tank, is at the end of his two-year term as president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The European-U.S. alliance has existed since 1949.
Trump stunned NATO allies during the presidential campaign by appearing to make U.S. military support for NATO member states conditional on whether those nations had invested sufficiently in the alliance. Asked by the New York Times whether he’d protect NATO countries if Russia attacked them, Trump responded by saying that some partners had not been meeting their financial responsibilities to the alliance.
Under the terms of the alliance’s Article 5, an attack against one state is considered an attack against every member of the alliance.
The Dayton Republican said he believes Trump is committed to Article 5, and he said he agrees with Trump on the principle that NATO partners must increase their defense spending for the alliance. While the U.S. spends approximately 3.6 percent of its gross domestic product on defense for NATO countries, Germany only spends 1.2 percent of their GDP on defense
With the election over, Turner has become an intermediary between the president-elect and NATO leadership. Turner said he helped to set up a conversation between Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg – the first conversation between the two since Trump was elected president. Turner worked with Vice-President-elect Mike Pence to set up the meeting.
“They had a very good conversation,” he said. “What I’m hearing from the administration is not only an absolute commitment to Article 5 but an absolute commitment that partners need to increase their defense spending.”
He said he would not take the Trump’s campaign overtures toward Russian President Vladimir Putin as “a walk away from the commitment to NATO or the commitment to building up our military. The President-elect has been very clear about increasing our military strength.”
“We need to look through the lens of not the rhetoric of the campaign but the rhetoric or substance of those who are going to populate the government,” he said.