Trump's latest statements are seen as a sudden change of his campaign rhetoric during which he criticized the military alliance and called it outdated. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly questioned NATO's purpose, vowing to review Washington's commitment to the alliance.
"Well, the change reflects changing circumstances. I mean Donald Trump did criticize NATO very heavily while he was a candidate. But his criticism was not really about the fundamental nature of NATO, but rather about how NATO was operating," Basham told Sputnik.
In particular, Trump complained that the US has been paying an unfair share of membership, while other countries failed to meet their financial obligations within the alliance. However, his attitude toward the alliance has changed as NATO members have already showed a greater willingness to financially commit to the alliance's activities.
"He [Trump] feels that with more NATO members being willing to contribute greater militarily in terms of budget and also with an apparent greater willingness to take on ISIS [Daesh] and other threats, NATO now has a stronger future from his perspective," the expert said.
During the Wednesday press conference, Trump repeated his calls for other NATO members to pay more toward their common military cooperation and carry a greater share of the alliance's burdens.
"If Donald Trump becomes convinced over the coming months that other NATO members are serious about reshaping the alliance, then I expect that he would be the head of the campaign to ensure that NATO survives and even thrives," Basham said.
"But Donald Trump is […] not afraid to change his mind. So, if he concludes over the coming months that the other NATO members have simply been telling him what he wanted to hear rather than, from his point of view, stepping up to the plate and changing their behavior and their funding, then I think he would revert to his earlier rhetoric and say: Look, I've given my NATO allies a chance and they haven't done what they said they would and what is necessary. And so we, actually, must once again revisit NATO's purpose," the expert added.
On Wednesday, Trump and Stoltenberg held their first meeting in the White House, during which they discussed issues ranging from US policy in Afghanistan to NATO's relations with Russia.