In his press conference with NATO's General Secretary, President Donald Trump announced a major shift in his thinking about the alliance.
He praised NATO's commitment to fighting terrorism, which he previously — and falsely — claimed the alliance didn't do before he called them out on it. He then referenced a campaign talking point, where he questioned the relevance of NATO.
"I said it was obsolete," Trump said, referencing his previous comments. "It’s no longer obsolete."
Coming less than three months into his presidency, this is a dramatic shift in the way Trump has viewed foreign alliances in general, and the historic alliance between Western nations in particular.
For his entire campaign, Trump lashed out at the NATO alliance, founded in 1947 from the ashes of World War II. In one example, in March, he told ABC News that "NATO doesn't discuss terrorism. NATO's not meant for terrorism. NATO doesn't have the right countries in it for terrorism," and he singled out Russia's conflict with Ukraine as an example of NATO's standing on the sidelines. However, Ukraine is not a NATO member, meaning the alliance wouldn't intervene in the first place.
The rhetoric continued even after his election. As recently as five days before his inauguration, Trump told German newspaper Bild that NATO was "obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago,” because its member nations "aren’t paying what they should,” and that it “didn’t deal with terrorism.”
But despite Trump taking credit for NATO now fighting terrorism, the U.S. has actually relied on the alliance in the War on Terror. The only time that Article V, which calls all member nations to support a member under attack, has been invoked was by the United States after the September 11th attacks, a call which NATO answered by sending troops to Afghanistan.