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Trump reiterates to NATO allies: If you don’t pay up, ‘I'm not going to protect you’


By Mirela NanPublished 2 months ago 3 min read

Donald Trump on Wednesday night underscored his controversial position that the U.S. would not defend any NATO ally country that does not spend at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.

“I've been saying, ‘Look, if they're not going to pay, we're not going to protect, okay? And Biden who said, ‘Oh, this is so bad. This is so terrible that he would say that.’ No,” said Trump at a rally in South Carolina, adding that he looked at the defense budgets of each country and said “nobody’s paying their bills.”

“One of the heads of the countries said ‘Does that mean that if we don't pay the bills, that you're not going to protect us?’” Trump recounted. The former president then replied, “‘That's exactly what it means. I'm not going to protect you.’”

While Trump has come under pressure from President Joe Biden and international allies about his comments that he originally made on Saturday night, they have largely been met by Republicans at home with nods of approval, shrugs or efforts to downplay his words.

Trump did not repeat the most eyebrow-raising part of his anecdote from over the weekend, that he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to a country that does not live up to its promise to spend on its defense budget.

At the White House on Tuesday, Biden called Trump’s comments over the weekend as “shameful.”

“A former president of the United States saying that? The whole world heard it. And the worst thing is he means it. No other president in our history has ever bowed down to a Russian dictator,” said Biden. “Let me say this as clearly as I can — I never will. For God’s sake, it’s dumb, it’s shameful, it’s dangerous, it’s un-American.”

Former President Barack Obama echoed Biden on X, posting, "President Biden is absolutely right. The last thing we need right now is a world that is more chaotic and less secure; where dictators feel emboldened and our allies wonder if they can count on us. Let’s keep moving forward."

Trump has long been a critic of NATO and European countries who have not lived up to their commitment to spend on defense and military budgets. But under NATO’s Article 5 collective defense clause, if any member state is attacked, it is considered “an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference on Wednesday that member countries have stepped up their spending, with 18 of the 31 member countries on track to meet their pledge of contributing at least 2 percent of their GDP to defense and military.

Trump’s statement about the most important transatlantic military alliance comes after the Senate passed a $95 billion bill with aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Biden encouraged House Republicans to “immediately” take up the bill, although House Speaker Mike Johnson dismissed it because it does not contain border security provisions. Instead, the House will draft up its own legislation.

Over the weekend, Trump also said that foreign aid should come in the form of a loan, and not a grant. At his rally on Wednesday night, Trump compared loaning money and aid to other countries to lending money to professional golfers trying to get their careers off the ground.

On Monday, Trump spoke with a group of senators about his idea. Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump, was part of the call and said he supported the idea.

“A loan on friendly terms allows America, who is deeply in debt, a chance to get our money back and changes the paradigm of how we help others. President Trump is right to insist that we think outside the box,” he said in a statement.

Trump’s comments came during a rally ahead of the South Carolina primary on Saturday, Feb. 24. The former president is leading in the polls by double digits against former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

“When Donald Trump leaves the teleprompter, he is unhinged,” Haley told CNN on Tuesday night. “The idea that he would suggest to not defend our allies in NATO, but to go a step further and encourage Putin to invade our allies, the same that stood with us at 9/11? Is unthinkable.”


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Mirela Nan

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