NATO’s top official joined the White House in slamming comments by Donald Trump that as president he told a member of the alliance he might encourage Russia to invade countries which hadn’t met defense-spending commitments.
“NATO remains ready and able to defend all allies. Any attack on NATO will be met with a united and forceful response,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement on Sunday.
“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,” he added.
Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, said at a campaign rally in South Carolina on Saturday that the decades-old military alliance had been “busted” until he came along and forced members to “pay up.”
When a European leader at an unspecified NATO meeting asked if the U.S. would protect them if they were delinquent on spending, Trump said he responded by saying he would tell Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to those who weren’t meeting their obligations.
Pushback from the Biden administration was swift. “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,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said he had “zero concern” about the comments and that Trump was “telling a story” at the rally to drive home a point. The former president “doesn’t talk like a traditional politician. And we have already been through this now,” Rubio said.
Stoltenberg said he expects “that regardless of who wins the presidential election, the U.S. will remain a strong and committed NATO ally.”
Still, there’s concern among officials from NATO members that Trump may be headed back to the White House as he rapidly closes in on the Republican nomination.
European Council President Charles Michel said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that “reckless statements” about NATO’s security and solidarity only serve the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton told LCI television that Europe would be able to deal with the U.S. if Trump were elected, but that U.S. democracy was “sick.” “We in Europe cannot play heads or tails every four years depending on the outcome of this or that election,” he added.
Trump has already shown that “he values being close to Putin more than to democratic transatlantic partners, and is accordingly prepared to disregard international obligations,” Omid Nouripour, a co-leader of Germany’s Greens party and part of the ruling coalition, was quoted as saying Sunday by the Funke media group.
Trump on Saturday said Russia’s war in Ukraine must end and reiterated his disapproval for sending more aid overseas as the Senate seeks to move forward with a package to provide emergency funding for Ukraine and Israel.
“We got to get that war settled and I’ll get it settled,” Trump said at the rally.
He called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “the greatest salesman in history” and sought to suggest that the U.S. could be “out hundreds of billions of dollars” if Ukraine made a deal with Russia — which invaded the country two years ago — and “all of a sudden they don’t want to deal with us anymore.”
(With assistance from Stephanie Lai, Alicia Diaz, Ania Nussbaum, Iain Rogers, Colin Keatinge, Christine Burke and Natalia Drozdiak.)
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