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Trump threatens to pull defense assistance if NATO countries don't pay

These comments have sparked a wave of backlash from lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad. But some Republicans have jumped to his defense.
Trump threatens to pull defense assistance if NATO countries don't pay
Posted at 3:50 PM, Feb 11, 2024

Former President Donald Trump said safety comes at a price, and that no one is exempt, including NATO allies.

At a rally in Conway, South Carolina on Saturday, Trump told supporters that if he is reelected in November, the United States will not defend NATO allies from attacks if they are not contributing enough to defense spending. 

"Most politicians have said to that 'yes, we will protect you under any circumstance.' Well, then they're never paying up. I said no, no, you have to understand. You don't pay your bills, you get no protection. It's very simple," Trump said.

He shared a story with the crowd about a question he had previously received from the leader of another country, whom he did not identify.

"They asked me that question. One of the presidents of a big country. He stood up, 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?’ He said, ‘yes, let's say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills," Trump said.

These comments have sparked a wave of backlash from lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad. 

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates responded, "Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged — and it endangers American national security, global security and our economy at home."

Meanwhile, NATO's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, told Norwegian media on Sunday that "any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk."

The European Council President, Charles Michael condemned Trump's comments on Twitter, calling his words "reckless," adding that those comments "serve only Putin's interest."

But some Republican lawmakers are defending Trump's comments.

"He's telling a story and frankly, look, Donald Trump is not a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. He doesn't talk like a traditional politician and we've already been through this now. You think people had figured it out by now," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Since 2014, NATO members have been asked to contribute an unofficial commitment of 2% of their gross domestic product on NATO defense spending.

"Well, first of all, it's just Trump being Trump. The United States is not going to let NATO countries be undefended. But at the same time, he's absolutely right about a lot of NATO countries for very long have not been pulling their weight," Armen Kurdian said.

Kurdian, a retired U.S. Navy captain, said Trump's comments will likely get NATO members to take a closer look at their defense spending contributions for the sake of national security interests.

"We have at least 31 nations who are part of it. They all have to contribute their requisite amount of funds and support to supporting NATO and keeping it going because it is a military treaty, a military organizational treaty,” said Kurdian. “And without it, this just the existence of NATO. I think, has been something that has kept Russia at bay to a certain degree. Hopefully it will continue to maintain as an effective force."  

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