President Trump on Wednesday pledged his full support to NATO, reaffirming the United States’ commitment to the alliance and saying he no longer considers it “obsolete,” a sharp reversal from his rhetoric on the campaign trail and during his first weeks in office.
On a day when Trump dramatically changed his stance on several policy positions, his statement about NATO stood out given his consistent criticism of the military alliance and its importance to U.S. allies.
For more than a year, Trump has said NATO is outdated and costing the United States too much money, suggesting replacing it with an alternative organization focused on counterterrorism and repeatedly using the word “obsolete.” As recently as January, Trump continued to stand by this position — which alarmed many NATO members — saying in a Jan. 15 interview with the Times of London and Germany’s Bild that NATO is “obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror” and that critics of his comments have “started saying Trump is right.”
During a joint news conference Wednesday afternoon with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump professed that his criticisms prompted the alliance to make changes that satisfied his concerns–though he did not specify what those were.
“I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change — and now they do fight terrorism,” Trump said. “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”
It’s unclear what changes the president was referencing. NATO added a new assistant secretary general position focused on intelligence and security in July, although experts say the change does not mark a major shift for the organization and point out that NATO has long addressed concerns of terrorism. For months after the position was created, Trump continued to call NATO obsolete.