What Does Trump's Victory Mean For NATO? : Parallels The president-elect called the alliance "obsolete" and said European countries weren't paying their share. This has created hand-wringing in the bedrock institution of Western security.

What Does Trump's Victory Mean For NATO?

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Donald Trump said a lot of shocking things during his campaign. Near the top of the list - he called NATO obsolete. He said the United States would not defend member countries unless they reimbursed Washington for the cost of its troops and bases in Europe. His threat goes to the very foundation of NATO, that an attack on one is an attack on all. And a lot of people in Europe are nervous after his election victory. And for more on this, we turn to NPR's Frank Langfitt, who is in Brussels, the home of NATO headquarters. Frank, good morning.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So what was the reaction to Trump's victory at NATO?

LANGFITT: I think here in Brussels there was - people were stunned and there was a sense of panic. I mean, imagine waking up and finding out the most powerful member of your group is about to be run by one of your harshest critics, who actually questions your value. I was talking to Bruno Lete, he works as a security analyst at the German Marshall Fund here in Brussels. And here's how he put it.

BRUNO LETE: Friends were posting on Facebook, on Twitter. It was as if people would believe that it's the end of the world. That it's the end of the transatlantic bonds, that the Americans will no longer have the back of Europe, that we basically lost our only friends on the planet.

LANGFITT: You know, Lete said Trump's criticisms that other countries don't pay their fair share is nothing new. But the idea that the U.S. might not defend a fellow member is frightening. Because, you know, NATO, as you were saying earlier, it only works as a deterrent if all members are willing to defend each other.

GREENE: Well, Frank, you mentioned members. I mean, this is an organization of member countries and, you know, not monolithic. Different countries have different histories, different cultures. So, I mean, are some countries more nervous than others?

LANGFITT: Absolutely. You know, there are three tiny countries - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania - they're called the Baltics. They are the most nervous right now. They used to be a part of the Soviet Union. Then they became a part of NATO. And that drives Russian President Vladimir Putin crazy. So now you have Trump praising Putin, saying he won't necessarily protect NATO countries. For the Baltics, that's a nightmare.

Jonathan Eyal, he's with the Royal United Services Institute. That's a military think tank in London. He says Trump's approach to NATO is really transactional. And his - the way he thinks is sort of, what's in it for me? And that Trump isn't really driven by the shared values that hold organizations like NATO together. Now, (unintelligible) see Trump as a kind of guy that might be willing to cut a deal. I talked to Eyal by phone. Here's how he put it.

JONATHAN EYAL: I think there's a lot of people in Moscow who see the real estate and property tycoon as being absolutely right and ready for a division in the spheres of influence between Russia and United States, usually done on the back of the Europeans as it was done at the end of the second World War.

LANGFITT: Now, David, Eyal emphasized he doesn't think Europe is going to be carved up. But he worries that Trump is driving misperceptions in Moscow.

GREENE: Well, Frank, if Donald Trump is seen as someone who makes deals, negotiates, does NATO think they might talk him out of this view?

LANGFITT: I think that's part of their idea. You know, I was talking to Bruno Lete, he's that security analyst with the German Marshall Fund. He suggested a pragmatic approach. Basically NATO needs to appeal to Trump's way of thinking and point out that NATO provides stability in Europe and that's good for the economy and good for American business.

GREENE: Any criticisms of Trump that NATO actually accepts?

LANGFITT: Well, I think so. Around here, you know, Trump has said NATO needs to focus a lot more on one of the great threats of our time - terrorism. Lete agreed and said NATO's doing more in that area.

GREENE: OK. NPR's Frank Langfitt, speaking to us from the home of NATO - Brussels. Frank, thanks a lot.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, David.

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