Former US President Donald Trump pictured during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at Winfield House in London on December 3, 2019.
NICHOLAS KAMM | AFP | Getty Images
Former US leader and presidential candidate Donald Trump stoked the anger of US lawmakers and international leaders after saying he would not protect NATO countries from Russian attacks if they defaulted on their membership dues.
At a rally in South Carolina on Saturday, Trump said that as president he had warned NATO allies that he would “encourage Russia to do whatever they want with a member country that doesn’t meet its defense spending guidelines.” .
Trump, who has long criticized the transatlantic military alliance, recounted an occasion when an unnamed president of a NATO member threatened him not to protect it from a possible Russian invasion if it did not meet NATO’s spending target of at least 2%. of their gross domestic product for the military.
“You didn’t pay, you’re a criminal. …No, I wouldn’t protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You have to pay. “You have to pay your bills,” Trump said.
According to Statista, the United States has historically had the largest number of military personnel of any NATO country, numbering 1.35 million soldiers in 2023.
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Trump is accused of having close ties with Russia during his first presidential term. The Kremlin declined to address Trump’s comments.
“I’m still [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s press secretary, but not Trump’s,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Reuters.
Senior Western officials and Democratic and Republican lawmakers sharply criticized Trump’s comments. US President Joe Biden, who is running for a second term, called Trump’s comments “appalling and dangerous.”
“Unfortunately, they are also predictable, coming from a man who promises to rule as a dictator, as he praises him on his first day returning to the Oval Office,” Biden said in a statement on Sunday.
Trump is vying for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination against former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
In an interview with CBS on Sunday, Haley said: “The last thing we ever want to do is side with Russia.”
She added that the NATO alliance “enables us to prevent war.”
Former Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie also criticized Trump’s comments, saying in an interview with NBC News on Sunday: “That’s why I’ve been saying for a long time that he’s not fit to be president of the United States.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (not seen) hold a joint press conference after the North Atlantic Council meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 7, 2024.
Dursun Aydemir | Anatolia | Getty Images
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was “ready and able” to defend all allies and that any attack would be responded to “uniformly and forcefully.”
“Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the United States, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.
“I expect that regardless of who wins the presidential election, the United States will remain a strong and committed NATO ally,” he added.
NATO’s spending target
NATO’s 31 members, including the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Turkey and the United Kingdom, agreed in July last year to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense, reaffirming an earlier target.
A report released by NATO last year showed that only 11 of the then 30 member alliances spent 2% of GDP or more on defense. The defense spending target is not a requirement and many countries have sought to increase their military spending since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The so-called mutual defense clause in NATO’s Article 5 means that an attack against one NATO member is considered an attack against all allies.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on Monday that the alliance cannot depend on the impulses of the US political leadership.
“NATO cannot be an à la carte military alliance… dependent on the humor of the US president,” Borrell said when asked to respond to Trump’s comments, Reuters reported.
The Foreign Office posted “One for all and all for one” on its English-language X social media account on Sunday, supported by the hashtag “#StrongerTogether.”
Polish Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz said on Sunday on X that the NATO motto “One for all, all for one” was a concrete commitment.
“Undermining the credibility of allied countries means weakening the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organization. No election campaign is an excuse to play with the security of the alliance,” he added.
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