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Donald Trump continues to express his longstanding skepticism of NATO

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's find out how a statement in an American presidential campaign echoes in Europe. Former President Trump told one of his rambling stories over the weekend. He claimed that an unnamed leader of a NATO ally, someone who referred to him as sir, asked about not spending enough for defense, and Trump recounted himself, saying he would tell Russia to do whatever it wants to that country. No reliable source says any of this happened, but the ex-president was expressing his long-standing skepticism of the North Atlantic alliance. A brand-new member of NATO is Finland, which shares a border with Russia and joined after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Finland's minister for European affairs joins us next. He is Anders Adlercreutz. He's on the line. Welcome.

ANDERS ADLERCREUTZ: Thank you. Thank you for having me. Good morning.

INSKEEP: What did you think when you heard the former president's remarks?

ADLERCREUTZ: Of course, it did raise some concern. Article 5 is really the backbone of the alliance. Its credibility must be protected, and I think it's also definitely in the interest of the U.S.

INSKEEP: I guess we should explain. When you say Article 5, that is the part of the North Atlantic Treaty that says an attack on one nation will be viewed as an attack on them all, and it is, in fact - it was invoked one time, when the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001. You're saying, I think, that Trump's remarks undermine Article 5. He's saying Article 5 is optional. Is that it?

ADLERCREUTZ: Well, from our point of view, I mean, we here in Finland - we take commitment seriously. Finland clearly makes NATO stronger. We have real capabilities, a very strong reserve. We have arms, and we have stockpiles. I think you can say that Finland really never lowered its guard. But even so, we chose to become NATO members as a result of Russia's war in Ukraine. And I think you also can say that all NATO members can count on Finland being a reliable partner. We take agreement seriously, and Finland naturally expects all other member countries to do the same. I mean, of course, I have no doubt that the U.S. will also do that, whoever is the president.

INSKEEP: Oh - meaning that you are not actually fearful that if Donald Trump resumes the presidency, that he would treat this as an option rather than a requirement?

ADLERCREUTZ: Well, of course, I mean, the statement raises concern, but I fully expect, of course, any American president to abide by the agreements that the U.S. has made.

INSKEEP: Would it be a disaster for Finland if the United States did not abide? Because you've taken the risk of joining NATO. You've made your big neighbor, Russia, unhappy, and you would get nothing for it in return?

ADLERCREUTZ: Well, I think it would be very detrimental to general global security. In that case, I think it would be detrimental to American interests. I think, I mean, Trump has a point, if he referred to the national defense budgets when he talked about countries not paying. I think many countries here really need to step up. Finland is clearly above the 2% threshold in defense spending, but many countries are not. And that, of course, needs to change. Several European countries need to step - but I think that is a separate discussion. We have the other discussion of the general commitments. And here, of course, I think it is in the U.S. interest also that all other member countries understand that they have requirements - that the U.S. counts on them if Article 5 ever would be evoked. And as you said earlier, it was used after 9/11. At that point, several countries did come to the aid of the U.S. And Finland, of course, is fully committed to that, too. Whenever needed, Finland will abide by its commitments.

INSKEEP: You raised, though, the point that Trump's defenders would raise - essentially, that he is pressing NATO allies that don't to live up to an agreement to spend at least 2% of their GDP on national defense. And they will point out this is something that Barack Obama did before him, that it sounds like you would like, and he's just doing it in his Trumpy way. Is this a defensible remark in that sense?

ADLERCREUTZ: Well, I - of course, I live by the assumption that this is - these remarks are part of a campaign - of a presidential campaign. And, of course, as Finland has signed to an agreement which contains the requirements of Article 5, we, of course, naturally presume that every other member of the alliance lives up to that agreement. And I, of course, fully suppose that the U.S. also would do that if it would be tested.

INSKEEP: Anders Adlercreutz is the Finland minister for European affairs. Thank you very much for your time.

ADLERCREUTZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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