Former President Donald Trump suggested at a rally that under his presidency, NATO nations that fail to fulfill their financial obligations toward the military alliance would not receive help from the United States even when attacked by Russia.
“NATO was busted until I came along. I said, everybody’s going to pay,” President Trump said during a rally in South Carolina on Saturday. “They said, ‘Well, if we don’t pay, are you still going to protect us?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ They couldn’t believe the answer.”
“One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘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 got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”
President Trump said that due to his adamant position, which required NATO members to pay their agreed upon share in the alliance, “hundreds of billions of dollars” came into the organization. “And that’s why they have money today, because of what I did.”
At the core of the 31-member NATO alliance is the agreement that an attack on one of the members is an attack on all.
During his 2016 campaign, President Trump had warned that under his leadership, the United States would be able to abandon its NATO commitments to nations that don’t commit two percent of their GDP to military spending as mentioned in the alliance’s guidelines.
According to a 2023 NATO report, only seven of the 31 allies met the 2 percent GDP spending target on defense in 2022. Even this was an improvement over 2014, when only three allies fulfilled the minimum requirement.
“The United States accounted for 54 percent of the Allies’ combined GDP and 70 percent of combined defense expenditure. Total NATO military spending in 2022 was estimated to exceed USD 1 trillion.”
As of April 2023, the United States accounted for 16.19 percent of NATO’s budget and was the top joint contributor along with Germany, which also accounted for the same share. The United Kingdom contributed over 11 percent and France more than 10 percent.
The remaining member states contributed less than 10 percent, with 14 of them spending less than 1 percent each. “France, Germany, and the United Kingdom together represent approximately 50 percent of defense spending by the non-US Allies.”
NATO said that allies who do not meet the 2 percent GDP target in defense spending will “halt any decline; aim to increase defense expenditure in real terms as GDP grows; and aim to move towards the 2 percent guideline within a decade.”
In his speech, President Trump criticized his predecessor, President Barack Obama. “I hear that (NATO) liked Obama better. They should like Obama better. You know why? Because he didn’t ask for anything. We were like the stupid country of the world, and we’re not going to be the stupid country of the world any longer.”
Trump and NATO
In a statement on Saturday, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates called President Trump’s NATO comments “appalling and unhinged,” according to CNN.
“President Biden has restored our alliances and made us stronger in the world because he knows every commander in chief’s first responsibility is to keep the American people safe and hold true to the values that unite us,” the spokesperson 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.”
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Paweł Zalewski told Politico that President Trump’s comments on withdrawing support from NATO “are the words of a serious candidate for president so they should be treated seriously.”
“If we do that, then it means a change to the logic of the U.S. presence in NATO. It is very worrying. He correctly calls on member countries to spend more on defense, but he also calls on Russia to attack. This is completely incomprehensible.”
In an interview with CNN, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg was asked whether President Trump winning a second term in the White House would pose a problem for the military alliance.
“It’s not for me, it’s not for NATO to have any opinion about who’s going to be elected as president in any NATO ally—that includes, of course, the United States,” he replied. “But I am confident that regardless of the outcome of the presidential elections this fall, the U.S. will remain a staunch member of the alliance because it is in the security interests of the United States to have a strong NATO.”
“The criticism is not mainly about NATO. It’s mainly about NATO allies not spending enough on NATO. And the good news is that NATO allies, the European allies and Canada, have now really started to increase defense spending.”
President Trump also called on the U.S. Congress to stop giving foreign aid “to any country unless it is done as a loan, not just a giveaway.”
He said in a post on his social media platform Truth Social on Feb. 10 that the funds could be loaned out on “extraordinarily good terms,” like not having to pay interest and an unlimited term life. However, it would still be a loan.
“The deal should be (Contingent!) that the U.S. is helping you as a nation, but if the country we are helping ever turns against us, or strikes it rich sometime in the future, the loan will be paid off and the money returned to the United States.”
From The Epoch Times