Top western officials Sunday criticized former U.S. President and Republican front-runner Donald Trump over his comments that the United States might not protect NATO allies — whom he says are not spending enough on their defense — against a potential Russian invasion.
“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,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in a written statement. He added, “Any attack on NATO will be met with a united and forceful response.”
Polish Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz also commented, saying, “NATO’s motto ‘one for all, all for one’ is a concrete commitment of the North Atlantic alliance. Undermining the credibility of allied countries means weakening the entire NATO,” he wrote on social media platform X.
Germany’s foreign ministry posted the message, “One for all and all for one” with the hashtag #StrongerTogether on its English language X account. EU Council President Charles Michel said, “Reckless statements on #NATO’s security and Art 5 solidarity serve only (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s interest.”
Article 5 of the NATO treaty says that an armed attack against an alliance member will be considered an attack against them all, triggering collective self-defense.
During an interview with France’s LCI television, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said European Union leaders understood the bloc needed to boost its military spending and capacities. “We cannot flip a coin about our security every four years depending on this or that election, namely the U.S. presidential election,” Breton said.
Trump has regularly criticized allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for not meeting a goal of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense.
“You got to pay. You got to pay your bills,” Trump, who is almost a shoo-in for the Republican presidential nomination, said Saturday during a political rally in South Carolina.
He then recounted a story about an unidentified NATO member, who confronted him over his threat not to defend members who fail to meet the transatlantic alliance’s defense spending targets.
But this time, Trump went further, saying he had told the member that he would, in fact, “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes in that case.
“You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?” Trump recounted saying. “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates responded, saying, “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.”
Trump’s former U.N. ambassador and current challenger for the Republican nomination, Nikki Haley, said her former boss is taking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s side.
“What bothers me about this is, don’t take the side of a thug who kills his opponents. Don’t take the side of someone, who has gone in and invaded a country and half a million people have died or been wounded,” Haley told CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Trump’s comments come as Ukraine remains mired in its efforts to stave off Russia’s 2022 invasion and as Republicans in Congress have become increasingly skeptical of providing additional aid money to support the country as it struggles with stalled counteroffensives and weapons shortfalls.
They also come as Trump and his team are increasingly confident, he will clinch the Republican nomination in the coming weeks following commanding victories in the first votes of the party’s 2024 nominating calendar.
Earlier Saturday, Trump called for the end of foreign aid “without strings attached,” arguing that the U.S. should dramatically curtail the way it provides money.
“From this point forward, are you listening, U.S. Senate (?), no money in the form of foreign aid should be given to any country unless it is done as a loan, not just a giveaway,” Trump wrote on his social media network in all caps.
During his 2016 campaign, Trump alarmed Western allies by warning that the United States, under his leadership, might abandon its NATO treaty commitments and only come to the defense of countries that meet the alliance’s guidelines by committing 2 percent of their gross domestic products to military spending.
Trump, as president, eventually endorsed NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense clause. But he often depicted NATO allies as leeches on the U.S. military and openly questioned the value of the military alliance that has defined American foreign policy for decades.
As of 2022, NATO reported that seven of what are now 31 NATO member countries were meeting that obligation — up from three in 2014. Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has spurred additional military spending by some NATO members.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.