Donald Trump may force the US to leave Nato, triggering “open season” for Russia in eastern and central Europe, a former American ambassador has said.
Following US media reports Mr Trump has repeatedly discussed the prospect with White House officials, Dan Shapiro, former US ambassador to Israel, warned on Twitter the president “might actually do it”.
“We all know that withdrawing the US from Nato is the mother of all bats*** crazy ideas,” Mr Shapiro said, before adding: “Don't kid yourself, he wants to.”
Mr Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on America's continued membership of Nato, blaming European allies, notably Germany, for lagging behind military spending goals the president has set.
In the days around a tumultuous Nato summit meeting last summer, the New York Times reported, Mr Trump told his top national security officials he did not see the point of the western military alliance, which he presented as a drain on the US.
But politicians in both parties in Congress almost unanimously believe in continued US membership of Nato, of which it is by far the biggest contributor militarily.
Mr Shapiro, whose time as ambassador ended with Mr Trump’s inauguration, said the fallout of such a move was hard to gauge because “no one has ever taken such an idea seriously, or done any planning on it”.
He said the immediate consequence would be empowering Vladimir Putin to do what he wants in continental Europe. Citing the Kremlin’s aggression towards Ukraine and Georgia, two non-Nato states, Mr Shapiro suggested Russia could then treat European member states similarly.
1. We all know that withdrawing the US from NATO is the mother of all batshit crazy ideas. But we can't ignore the fact that Trump might actually do it. Don't kid yourself, he wants to. Maybe we will get lucky and he won't pull the trigger. But if he did, what would it look like?— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro)January 15, 2019
“Would European nations act on their own to defend threatened Nato members? Highly doubtful,” Mr Shapiro continued, citing poorer European defence capabilities against what would be a far more powerful adversary in Russia.
Mr Shapiro credited Nato with playing a major role in an unprecedented era of relative peace between European states since the end of the Second World War.
“Remove the United States from Nato, and the dominoes could start to tumble. A divided, internally conflicted Europe with the United States on the sidelines could lead to catastrophic humanitarian, security, and economic consequences,” he added.
There are few things Mr Putin desires more than the weakening of Nato, observers say, which he sees as a threat to Russian security and interests in Europe.
Alleged attacks on the US electoral system, its 2014 invasion of Crimea, and its efforts at preventing neighbouring countries from joining the alliance have all partly been conducted with the aim of weakening Nato, US officials say.
“It would be the wildest success that Vladimir Putin could dream of,” Michele Flournoy, an under secretary of defence under Barack Obama, said, adding it would “destroy” the “most powerful and advantageous alliance in history”.
The White House has been contacted for comment.