(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump said he wouldn’t protect a NATO nation that didn’t contribute enough defense funds and he’d “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want.”
“You don’t pay your bills, you get no protection. It’s very simple,” Trump said Saturday at a campaign event in Conway, South Carolina. “Hundreds of billions of dollars came into NATO and that’s why they have money.”
Trump recalled a past conversation with a leader of one of the 31 NATO countries, saying, “One of the presidents of a big country stood up [and] said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?'”
“I said, ‘You didn’t pay, you’re delinquent,'” Trump said. “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”
In his comments, Trump also falsely suggested that NATO contributions come in the form of loans. In 2006, NATO leaders agreed that member countries would commit to a minimum of 2% of their GDP that would go toward military readiness.
However, Trump has in the past criticized NATO, taking specific aim at the defense spending of other countries compared to the United States and has even previously vowed not to help other countries if they faced attacks because of it, raising concerns among international allies.
As President, Trump endorsed the NATO policy that outlines a collective defense procedure where an attack on one member is considered “an attack against all;” however, he has since ramped up his attacks on supporting other countries.
The White House responded to Trump’s comments, calling them “appalling and unhinged.”
“Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged — and it endangers American national security, global stability and our economy at home,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also criticized Trump’s comments, arguing it “undermines all of our security.”
“Any attack on NATO will be met with a united and forceful response,” Stoltenberg said in a statement. “Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S., and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk.”
Trump’s comments Saturday also come as he attempts to squash a national security supplemental after senators just cleared a procedural logjam to eventually finish working on a bill to provide aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. He posted to his social media platform, Truth Social, that “no money in the form of foreign aid should be given to any country unless it is done as a loan, not just a giveaway.”
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