NATO State Jumps on Clinton Bandwagon as Trump Splits Europe

(Bloomberg) -- Another nation on NATO’s eastern wing favors Hillary Clinton for U.S. president over Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has alarmed the alliance’s members by questioning the obligation to defend them in case of attack.

A Clinton presidency would better guarantee the security of U.S. allies in Europe, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in an interview published by the Hospodarske Noviny newspaper on Tuesday. The central European nation of 10.5 million people is both a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance and the European Union.

By calling NATO “obsolete” and questioning its binding principles, the Republican real-estate mogul has spooked some of the 28 countries stretching from the Pacific to the borders of former Cold War foe Russia, especially among the Baltic ex-Soviet republics that fear aggression from their neighbor. Trump sent shock waves through eastern Europe last month when he told the New York Times the U.S. would only defend fellow NATO members if they “have fulfilled their obligations to us” -- a criticism of what he perceives as low military spending by many allies.

“The decision is up to the U.S. voters, but to me it seems that Hillary Clinton’s experience and declarations are better guarantees of maintaining transatlantic cooperation,” Sobotka said in the interview. The Czech Republic will strive to maintain good relations with the U.S. no matter who is elected, he said.

‘Ironclad’ Committment

Sobotka’s endorsement follows similar support from French President Francois Hollande in June, while Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi praised Clinton for her security credentials in April and said he hoped the next U.S. president “could be a woman, finally.” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen has expressed concern at Trump’s stance on trade and backing down on NATO commitments.

In contrast, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has clashed with both fellow EU leaders and former U.S. President Bill Clinton over rule of law and lauded the model of “illiberal democracy” pursued by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, said a Trump presidency may be the best outcome for Europe.

The Democratic campaign has called the U.S. commitment to its NATO allies “ironclad” and said that, under Clinton, the country would never renege on its obligations.

NATO decided at a summit last month in Warsaw to send an allied battalion to each of the three Baltic countries and Poland. The move is an attempt to increase costs for Russia if it engages in any possible form of aggression. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has been accused by the U.S. and EU countries of supporting separatist rebels in that country’s easternmost regions in a war that’s killed almost 10,000 people. It has repeatedly said it has no intention of attacking EU members.