Russia is silent as Trump’s NATO comments stir political firestorm

Former US President Donald Trump is pictured during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at Winfield House in London on December 3, 2019.

NIKOLAOS KAMM | AFP | Getty Images

Former head of state and US presidential candidate Donald Trump has sparked the ire of US lawmakers and international leaders after he remarked that he would not protect NATO countries from Russian attacks if they delayed joining payments.

Speaking 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 the hell they want” to a member country that did not meet the guidelines for its defense spending. .

Trump, who has a long history of criticizing the transatlantic military alliance, recounted a moment when an unspecified president of a NATO member challenged him by threatening not to defend them against a possible Russian invasion if they did not meet NATO’s goal of spending at least 2% of their military budget.

“You didn’t pay, you’re a delinquent… No, I wouldn’t protect you. In fact, I’d encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You must pay. You have to pay your bills,” Trump said.

The US has historically had the largest number of military personnel of any NATO country, numbering 1.35 million troops in 2023. according to Statista.

Trump has been accused of maintaining close ties to Russia during his first term as president. The Kremlin refused to respond to Trump’s statements.

“I am still [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s press secretary, but not Trump’s,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Reuters.

Top Western officials, as well as Democratic and Republican lawmakers, sharply criticized Trump’s comments. US President Joe Biden, who has also declared his intentions to run for a second term, called Trump’s remarks “disgusting and dangerous”.

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“Unfortunately, they are also predictably coming from a man who promises to rule as a dictator like those he praised on day one if he returns to the Oval Office,” Biden said Sunday in a statement.

Trump is vying for Republican support for his presidential nomination at the polls later this year, facing former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

In an interview with CBS, Hayley said On Sunday that “the last thing we want to do is collude with Russia.”

He added that the NATO alliance “allows us to prevent war.”

Former Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie also criticized Trump’s comments, he said in an interview with NBC News on Sunday that “this is why I have been saying for a long time that he is not fit to be president of the United States.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (not shown) hold a joint press conference after the North Atlantic Council meeting held at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on February 7, 2024.

Dursun Aydemir | Anadolu | Getty Images

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO is “ready and able” to defend all allies and any attack would be met with a “united and forceful” response.

“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,” Stoltenberg said.

“I expect that regardless of who wins the presidential election, the US will remain a strong and committed NATO ally,” he added.

NATO spending target

The 31 members of NATO, which include the USA, Canada, France, Italy, the Turkey and the United Kingdom, agreed last July to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defence, reaffirming an earlier target.

A report published by NATO last year shown Only 11 of the then 30 members of the alliance spent 2% of GDP or more on defense. The defense spending target is not a requirement, and many countries have tried to increase their military spending since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The so-called mutual defense clause of NATO Article 5 means that an attack against one NATO member is considered an attack against all allies.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that NATO cannot be an “a la carte” military alliance that depends on the whims of the US political leadership.

“NATO cannot be an ‘a la carte’ military alliance … depending on the mood of the US president,” Borrell said when asked to respond to Trump’s comments. Reuters reported.

The German Foreign Ministry on Sunday was posted “One for all and all for one” on his English-language X social media account, supported by the hashtag “#StrongerTogether.”

Polish Minister of Defense Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz he said On Sunday via X that NATO’s motto ‘one for all, all for one’ is a concrete commitment.”

“Undermining the credibility of allied countries means weakening the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organization. No pre-election campaign is an excuse for playing with the security of the Alliance”, he added.

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