During a recent political rally, Former US President and contested Republican front-runner Donald Trump recounted a meeting with NATO that drew both national and international debate.
As part of his campaign speech in South Carolina, Trump claimed to recall a meeting with NATO leaders, quoted as asking, “Well sir, if we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia — will you protect us?”
Trump claims his response to this query was to reply, “You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent? No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.”
This refers to the alliance guidelines that NATO countries would commit 2% of their gross domestic production to military funding, which it was recently estimated only 10 of the 30 member states were able to do, with other members spending 1.5% or less.
Trump’s statement was supported by Jason Miller, Trump’s senior campaign advisor, who backed up the statement by claiming, “President Trump got our allies to increase their NATO spending by demanding they pay up, but Joe Biden went back to letting them take advantage of the American taxpayer.”
These statements have been met with firm rebuttal from NATO officials, who were quick to voice concerns about the potential compromise of NATO’s credibility.
Jens Stroltenberg, NATO Secretary General, released a written statement claiming that, “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.”
Stroltenberg was far from the only detractor, with Polish Defence Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz posting on social media platform X:
“NATO’s motto ‘one for all, all for one’ is a concrete commitment.
“Undermining the credibility of allied countries means weakening the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“No election campaign is an excuse for playing with the security of the alliance.”
Stroltenberg’s comments back up Polish Prime Minster Donald Tusk’s argument that the “the EU cannot be an economic and civilisational giant and a dwarf when it comes to defence.”
The White House also spoke out about Trump’s statement, with spokesperson Andrew Bates calling Trump’s comments “‘unhinged”‘, stating that the “‘encouragement”‘ of invasions into allied countries also risked endangerment of America’s economy, national security, and overall global stability.
Current US President Joe Biden concurred with these statements, adding that Trump’s admission to “give Putin a green light for more war and violence” was considered “appalling and dangerous”.
Donald Trump has not issued a reply or follow-up statement at the time of writing.