Donald Trump stated he would “encourage” Russia to attack any NATO member that does not fulfill its financial obligations to the Western military alliance.
During a Saturday rally, he shared a past conversation where he warned a leader that failing to meet payment commitments could lead to a lack of protection and encouragement for adversaries to “do whatever the hell they want”.
NATO’s principle is to defend any member nation that comes under attack. The White House criticized the remarks as “appalling and unhinged”.
At the South Carolina rally, Trump recounted telling NATO leaders about his stance on Russia, specifically in a scenario where a country was not upholding its financial duties to NATO and faced aggression from Moscow.
Trump recalled telling the leader of a “big country” about the consequences of not meeting NATO’s financial requirements and being targeted by Moscow.
He responded to the leader’s inquiry about US support by emphasizing the failure to pay and stating his refusal to offer protection, instead suggesting the aggressors could proceed as they wished.
“I said: ‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’… ‘No, I would not protect you; in fact, I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You gotta pay'”.
A White House spokesperson condemned Trump’s statements as promoting invasions by hostile regimes against America’s allies, calling the remarks “appalling and unhinged” and a threat to US national security, global stability, and domestic economic interests.
Trump, seen as a leading Republican candidate for the upcoming presidential election, has consistently criticized NATO for the financial strain it places on the US to defend 30 other countries.
After he left office, Russia initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Trump has criticized the substantial financial aid the US has sent to Ukraine, a non-NATO member.
The US has been the largest financial supporter of Ukraine since the 2022 invasion, providing over $44 billion, according to the White House’s December figures.
Since the beginning of the year, Congressional Republicans have halted all new funding, insisting on stringent policies to curb migration into the US through its southern border, and subsequently rejected the revised bill introduced earlier this week.
During a rally on Saturday, Mr. Trump praised this rejection, criticizing President Biden’s proposals as “disastrous”. The issues have been effectively divided, allowing senators to discuss the funding for aid independently.