Von der Leyen urges Trump to see NATO as alliance of shared values | News | DW | 11.11.2016
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Von der Leyen urges Trump to see NATO as alliance of shared values

Defense minister Ursula von der Leyen has urged US president elect Donald Trump to see NATO as an alliance of shared values and not as a business. She also said he needed to clarify his position on Russia.

Speaking on the ZDF talk show "Maybrit Illner" on Thursday evening, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that Trump needed to understand the nature of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

During his election campaign, Trump had said the alliance should not automatically defend members against Russia if they did not fulfill their contributions to NATO. The US currently accounts for 22 percent of the NATO budget and is the leading contributor.  "Maybe NATO will dissolve and that's OK, not the worst thing in the world," he said during the election campaign. Trump called the organization "obsolete" and better suited to fighting conventional wars than defeating the modern threat of terrorists.

Von der Leyen said "You can't say 'the past doesn't matter, the values we share don't matter' but instead try to get as much money out of it (NATO) as possible and whether I can get a good deal out of it," she remarked.

Symbolbild Russland Fallschirmjäger (Getty Images/AFP/J. Skarzynski)

US troops parachuting during the NATO Anaconda military exercises in Poland in June

"What his advisors will hopefully tell him and what he needs to learn is that NATO isn't just a business. It's not a company," von der Leyen said in the interview. "I don't know how he values NATO."

During the campaign, Trump had told the New York Times: "If we are not going to be reasonably reimbursed for the tremendous cost of protecting these massive nations with tremendous wealth … then yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, 'Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.'"

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg echoed von der Leyen's comments as he wrote on social media that he looked forward to meeting Trump at the NATO summit next year: "Our Alliance has brought together America's closest friends in times of peace and of conflict for almost 70 years. A strong NATO is good for the United States, and good for Europe."

Dealing with Russia

Von der Leyen also cautioned on too close an association with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Donald Trump has to say clearly on which side he is. Whether he's on the side of the law, peace and democracy or whether he doesn't care about all that and instead he's looking for a best buddy (with Putin)," she said. The conflicts linked to the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea or the bombing of Aleppo should never be forgotten during conversations with Putin, von der Leyen said.

A quarter of a million people were starving in Aleppo, von der Leyen commented. The minister said that it was within Putin's power to end that situation. "The US president must address that" she said.

Von der Leyen also remarked that NATO had stood by the US after the 9/11 attacks.

jm/bw (Reuters, dpa)

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