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Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Coastal Carolina University before the South Carolina Republican primary in Conway, South Carolina, on Feb. 10, 2024.

REUTERS/Sam Wolfe/File Photo

Trump's censure of defense spending “delinquents” triggers public backlash

Donald Trump can make his own claims to transforming the world beyond America’s borders – though whether it is by design, only he knows.

The frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination made news last month when he said he would not necessarily protect NATO countries that did not hit spending targets.

He said he was asked by the leader of a “delinquent” nation whether he would protect them from Russian invasion, even if they did not meet NATO’s spending target of 2% of GDP. He said he replied: “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them (the Russians) to do whatever the hell they want.”

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Admiral Rob Bauer, seen here in Tallinn, Estonia, in September 2022.

REUTERS/Janis Laizans

NATO bares its teeth

Almost two years after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s existential battle continues. The static frontlines look a lot like a stalemate, and US public and political opinions toward further funding for Ukraine are in doubt, but fears of regional escalation remain. Just this week, for example, the Belarusian defense minister said he would put forward a new military doctrine allowing for the use of nuclear weapons.

In response to possible aggression falling into NATO territory, the alliance is hellbent on preparedness. Addressing fellow NATO leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, Admiral Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO Military Committee, warned of the need to prepare for an era “in which anything can happen at any time. An era in which we need to expect the unexpected.” Bauer and his colleagues are meeting to discuss attempts to do just that with Steadfast Defender, the largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War.

Showing off friendly muscle. The NATO training exercises, to be held from February to June in Germany, Poland, and the Baltics, will involve more than 40,000 troops from across the 31-nation alliance (plus pending member Sweden). The work will test the troops’ ability to quickly mobilize in case of a Russian attack while showing off the alliance’s strength and unity.

Not to be outdone, Russia will also host military drills this year with “Ocean-2024,” bringing together all branches of the Russian Armed Forces and units of “foreign states,” according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Smartphone with a displayed Russian flag with the word "Cyberattack" and binary codes over it is placed on a computer motherboard in this illustration.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

NATO’s virtual battlefield misses AI

The world’s most powerful military bloc held cyber defense exercises last week, simulating cyberattacks against power grids and critical infrastructure. NATO rightly insists these exercises are crucial because cyberattacks are standard tools of modern warfare. Russia regularly engages in such attacks, for example, to threaten Ukraine’s power supply, and the US and Israel recently issued a joint warning of Iranian-linked cyberattacks on US-based water systems.

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