NATO’S secretary general has warned Donald Trump that his latest comments “undermine all of our security” after the former US President claimed that he would not protect allies who failed to spend enough on defence.
Jens Stoltenberg, head of NATO, said: “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”.
Trump told supporters at a rally on Saturday that he would “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to members of the alliance that do not meet spending targets.
In 2006, NATO’s members committed to spending at least 2% of GDP on defence – however, 19 of the organisation’s 30 members failed to reach this target last year, including Spain, Germany and France.
The Republican presidential candidate’s comments appear to undermine Article 5 of NATO’s mutual defence clause, which indicates that if a NATO ally is attacked, every member of the alliance will consider the violence as a collective attack and respond accordingly.
US President Joe Biden said: “Donald Trump’s admission that he intends to give Putin a green light for more war and violence, to continue his brutal assault against a free Ukraine, and to expand his aggression to the people of Poland and the Baltic States are appalling and dangerous”.
Speaking in Conway, South Carolina, as he seeks to guarantee the Republican nomination for the forthcoming election, Trump said that when he was previously President he was asked by the leader “of a big country” whether the US would defend it from attack by Russia.
The 77-year old told the crowd: “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 gotta pay your bills”.
Nikki Haley, Trump’s only opponent for the Republican nomination, said in a CBS News interview that the last thing the US “would ever want to do is side with Russia”.
Trump has consistently been critical of NATO and what he sees as the excessive role that the US plays in financially securing the defence of the alliance’s European members.
He complained that the US had spent more on the war in Ukraine than any other country, totalling over $44billion of investment since Russia’s 2022 invasion, with an extra investment package of $60billion currently being stalled by Republicans in Congress.
According to reports, Trump told NATO members privately at a 2018 meeting that he would pull the country out of the organisation unless other members upped their spending on defence – John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, predicts that the US will be withdrawn from NATO if he wins the next election.
“You need to understand that if Europe is under attack we will never come to help and support you”, Trump reportedly told Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission in 2020.
NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – was established in 1949 following World War II, initially in order to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.
The UK was a founding member of the alliance, whilst Spain joined in 1982, seven years after the death of General Franco.
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