Theresa May: I wasn’t sure if Trump would stay in NATO

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, England — The “unpredictable” former U.S. President Donald Trump would keep even the closest American ally, Britain, guessing over what he planned to do in terms of NATO, former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday.

Speaking to a group of Conservative Party supporters in Milton Keynes, May recalled her first meeting with Trump in 2017, in which NATO was already high on her agenda — in a manner similar to how Trump is again brandishing a threat to withdraw from the defense alliance in his ongoing election campaign.

“I was the first world leader to go and see him after his inauguration,” May said. “And I went with the express aim of getting him to commit to NATO, because of things he’d said in his presidential campaign,” she added.

“But having had the conversation in private with him, when we went into the press conference, I wasn’t sure what he was going to say,” May said. “Thankfully, he did commit to NATO.”

On the face of it, 2024 is no different from 2016.

Over the last few weeks, the Republican frontrunner and top aides around him have sent mixed messages, alternating between a scaled-down protection level for under-paying NATO members and showing “100 percent” commitment to staying in the military alliance.

“We’ve got the same issue now were he to win the presidential election,” May said. “He’s been saying some contradictory things about NATO. But it’s that unpredictability that I think is the difficulty.”

Trump has long accused European countries of not meeting the target to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense. Up to a third of NATO’s 32 countries are expected to fail to honor their pledge to bring up defense spending to this level by the end of this year, according to the alliance.

“The word I would always use about Donald Trump is unpredictable,” May said. “Sometimes I think his administration were a bit surprised, suddenly, when they woke up to a tweet that told them what was happening, a policy change,” she said.

“And it’s even harder for the allies at that point.”