NATO leader says Trump put US troops, allies at risk with remarks

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The head of NATO on Sunday argued that former President Trump’s remarks that he “would encourage” Russian aggression toward “delinquent” members of the international alliance put the safety of U.S. troops and their allies at risk.

“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,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

Trump, during a rally in South Carolina last Saturday, said an unidentified foreign leader once questioned him about his threat not to defend members who do not hit the alliance’s defense spending targets. 

The former president added that he told the leader he would “encourage” Russia to do whatever it wishes and recounted saying, “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.”

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The remarks drew strong rebuke from top western officials and some of Trump’s political rivals over the weekend.

Polish Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, for example, pointed out that a key pillar of NATO is that an attack on one is an attack on all.

“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,” Kosiniak-Kamysz wrote in a translated post on X, formerly Twitter.

Germany’s foreign ministry also weighed in without directly calling out Trump’s remarks.

“‘One for all and all for one.’ This #NATO creed keeps more than 950 million people safe – from Anchorage to Erzurum. #StrongerTogether,” the ministry wrote on X.

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EU Council President Charles Michel, also without directly mentioning Trump, wrote on X, “The Transatlantic Alliance has underpinned the security and the prosperity of Americans, Canadians and Europeans for 75 years.”

“Reckless statements on #NATO’s security and Art 5 solidarity serve only Putin’s interest. They do not bring more security or peace to the world. On the contrary, they reemphasise the need for the #EU to urgently further develop its strategic autonomy and invest in its defence. And to keep our Alliance strong,” Michel added.

Some of Trump’s political rivals also criticized Trump’s remarks, including President Biden, who called his comments “appalling and dangerous.”

Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley — Trump’s main GOP primary challenger — warned the former president not to “take the side of a thug,” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Haley also stressed she would “absolutely” stand with NATO if elected president.

Trump repeatedly criticized NATO allies during his time in the White House and threatened to undermine the alliance on various occasions.

HIs reelection campaign doubled down on the former president’s remarks in a statement to The Hill on Sunday, criticizing Biden’s European defense policy.

“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,” spokesman Jason Miller said. “When you don’t pay your defense spending you can’t be surprised that you get more war.”

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