Former President Donald Trump stirred controversy on Saturday as he revived a long-running critique of NATO over how much its member nations contribute financially to the alliance, alluding to his hardball negotiation tactics with other world leaders on the subject.
During an event in South Carolina, Trump spoke of how NATO, which has a 2% minimum GDP defense investment guideline for members, was “busted” until he got allied countries to increase their spending under pressure to do more to assist the United States in propping up the collective.
“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? 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,” Trump said.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 11, 2024
Some critics took Trump’s comments as suggesting he would allow the United States to neglect its Article 5 duties if Russia were to attack one of its NATO allies.
“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,” said White House spokesman Andrew Bates.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Trump’s last-remaining rival in the GOP primary contest who served as his ambassador to the United Nations, said on CBS, “The last thing we ever want to do is side with Russia.”
.@NikkiHaley reacts to Donald Trump saying he’d let Russia “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries that he thinks are not paying enough: “Don’t take the side of someone who has gone in and invaded a country…The last thing we ever want to do is side with Russia.” pic.twitter.com/AVJ8VjpJQR
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) February 11, 2024
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responded with a statement that said “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.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has endorsed Trump in the 2024 election, told CNN he had “zero concerns” about Trump’s latest comments on NATO.
“What he’s basically saying is, if you see the comments, he said NATO was broke or busted until he took over because people weren’t paying their dues. And then he told the story about how he used leverage to get people to step up to the plate and become more active in NATO,” Rubio said.