During the weekend, former president Donald Trump asserted that, as president, he notified America’s NATO allies that the United States wouldn’t safeguard them against Russia if they had not contributed adequate funds to the military alliance.
The anticipated Republican presidential nominee has continuously criticized defense spending by NATO allies, inaccurately alleging they are in debt to the alliance. However, his remarks on Saturday at a campaign event in Conway, SC, indicated that he would support attacks against “delinquent” nations.
Trump recounted a conversation with another country’s leader during his presidency, “If we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?” Allegedly, he replied, “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would urge them to do whatever they wish.” Trump claimed last year that “hundreds of billions of dollars came flowing in” to NATO after his threats. (Fact-checkers have deemed similar past claims from Trump “an exaggeration.”)
While there has been a discussion about NATO spending, it isn’t concerning unpaid debt, but rather whether NATO allies are dedicating sufficient portions of their economic output to their own defense. In 2014, member countries committed to progressing towards spending 2 percent of their GDPs on military preparedness; thus far, only 11 of 31 member countries have achieved that target. (The United States stands out, spending considerably more than most nations on military activities—an estimated 3.5 percent of GDP.)
Trump’s comments come at a time when congressional Republicans have delayed providing further assistance to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia—aid that, at his campaign event, Trump suggested the United States should “offer it to ‘em as a loan.”
The White House promptly condemned his statements. “Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement. “Rather than endorsing wars and supporting deranged chaos, President Biden will continue to fortify American leadership and advocate for our national security interests—not oppose them.”
In a declaration on Sunday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also criticized Trump’s comments. “NATO remains prepared and capable of defending all allies,” Stoltenberg stated. “Any insinuation that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and places American and European soldiers at heightened risk.”