Top Western officials have criticised former United States President Donald Trump after he suggested the US might not protect NATO allies who aren’t spending enough on defence from a potential Russian invasion.
“Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a written statement.
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“Any attack on NATO will be met with a united and forceful response,” he added.
On Saturday, at a political rally in South Carolina in the US, Trump, who is likely to be the Republican nominee in this year’s US presidential election, had said that as president, he warned NATO allies that he “would encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to countries that are “delinquent”.
Trump’s remarks come as Ukraine remains mired in its efforts to stave off Russia’s 2022 invasion and as Republicans in the US Congress have become increasingly sceptical of providing additional aid money to the country as it struggles with stalled counteroffensives and weapons shortfalls.
Polish Defence Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz also weighed in on Trump’s comments.
“NATO’s motto ‘one for all, all for one’ is a concrete commitment. Undermining the credibility of allied countries means weakening the entire NATO,” he wrote on social media platform X.
Dewiza NATO „jeden za wszystkich, wszyscy za jednego” jest konkretnym zobowiązaniem. Podważanie wiarygodności państw sojuszniczych to osłabianie całego Paktu Północnoatlantyckiego. Żadna kampania wyborcza nie jest wytłumaczeniem dla igrania bezpieczeństwem Sojuszu.
— Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz (@KosiniakKamysz) February 11, 2024
European 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-defence.
During the political rally on Saturday, Trump appeared to recount a meeting with NATO leaders, and quoted the president of “a big country” that he did not name as asking, “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.”
“We have heard that before … Nothing new under the sun”, said EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton in an interview with France’s LCI television, adding:
“He maybe has issues with his memory. It was actually a female president, not of a country, but of the European Union,” Breton said, referring to European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and a conversation she had with Trump in 2020.
“We cannot flip a coin about our security every four years depending on this or that election, namely the US presidential election,” Breton said, adding EU leaders understood the bloc needed to boost its own military spending and capacities.
Asked about Trump’s comments, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said: “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.”
In a statement issued on Saturday, Bates said current US President Joe Biden, a Democrat seeking re-election in November, had restored US alliances after taking office in 2021, ensuring that NATO was now “the largest and most vital it has ever been”.
“Rather than calling for wars and promoting deranged chaos, President Biden will continue to bolster American leadership and stand up for our national security interests – not against them,” Bates said.