NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and it's an alliance with a lot of history. It began in 1949 with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty, which includes a crucial agreement in the treaty's fifth amendment that if any of the nations who signed the treaty were attacked, the other nations who signed the treaty would assist in the defense of the attacked nation.

Reacting to recent statements:

Ever since President Truman signed the North Atlantic Treaty, every president has agreed with the 5th article of the treaty and has agreed pretty much unquestionably that the 5th article would be honored by the United States.

President Trump has not done this, and it's understandably concerning to many observers given the tone of the statements of the President. That being said his reasoning deserves to be understood, and his argument has merit: he has urged other nations who are a part of NATO to increase their military spending, and he's actually not wrong about this criticism. Many Members Of Nato do not follow NATO's guidelines when it comes to military spending, which is something that both Clinton and Sanders urged them to do back during the Presidential election.

NATO urges member states to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense, but only the United States, Greece, Poland, Estonia, and the United Kingdom actually meet these requirements.

Pointing this out and feeling frustrated about it is entirely understandable. It's also worth noting that as far as anyone can tell, President Trump has changed his opinion on NATO repeatedly in the past hinting that he can be reasoned with on this issue.

Even though this aspect of President Trump's criticism of the participation of members of NATO is actually not unreasonable, that does not mean that President Trump should make his support of NATO's arguably most crucial article conditional.

One of the reasons for low participation in this aspect of NATO could be influenced by the fact that some countries have much smaller militaries than the United States, with one example being Iceland, which is a member of NATO and has been since the initial signing of the treaty in 1949 not even having an army.

Understanding the context of the low participation rates of other nations in meeting NATO's guidelines is important, but it's also worth noting that as recently as 2014, in a summit of NATO's members, the nations who weren't meeting the military spending guidelines collectively committed to gradually increasing their spending over the next decade.

Why defend NATO?

NATO is a valuable alliance, and among the signers of the treaty are some of our country's most valuable allies and partners such as Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, as well as some of the most influential regional leaders and states such as Croatia, Turkey, Iceland, Spain, and Portugal. It's a sign of our continued partnership with both historic allies and newfound friends and partners as global politics change the world around us, as well as being evidence that we understand that we cannot isolate ourselves from the world but must take an active role in global leadership.

It's an alliance of global leaders and nations who by and large value democracy and think it's worth protecting.

President Trump should not make statements about it lightly, because the world is watching and world leaders are influenced by the actions of NATO.

NATO is not just an alliance that exists on paper. NATO is an organization with its own influence and has even engaged with Russia as early as late 1989 with then Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze visiting NATO headquarters and NATO Secretary General Manfred Worner visiting Moscow in July of 1990 to discuss future cooperation between NATO and Russia.

Currently, there are significant tensions between NATO and Russia, thanks to the annexation of Crimea and more recently the incident when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that was reportedly violating Turkish airspace, but that is only further reason to protect NATO and to strengthen it.

While this does include calling for members of the alliance to increase their spending, threatening not to protect those nations if they refuse to pull their weight is not the proper way to defend NATO; in fact, it's quite the opposite with it only making NATO look weak in front of the rest of the world, particularly nations and organizations with desires to harm members of NATO.

President Trump needs to carefully consider each statement he makes about NATO and contemplate the potential global consequences of those statements. It's important to maintaining the current global order that he be careful to consider each possible reaction from other world leaders and world influencers before he makes a thoughtless statement such as hinting that he might not defend NATO's members if they happen to be attacked.