Former President Donald Trump suggested he would let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO members that do not contribute their fair share to the military alliance, prompting concern among officials in the United States and abroad.
Trump’s remarks were delivered at a rally in South Carolina. He recounted an exchange he allegedly had with the president of a large NATO nation that he would not name.
Trump: One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, Well, sir, if we don't pay and were attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said.. No I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. pic.twitter.com/2RPVDFZIXy
— Acyn (@Acyn) February 10, 2024
“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 gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.'”
The shockwaves from the Republican nomination front-runner’s comments have been felt on the other side of the Atlantic. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that Trump’s position harmed the alliance but would also rebound against the United States as well.
“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,” he said, according to The Hill.
Another European functionary, EU Council President Charles Michel, took to X to claim, “Reckless statements on #NATO’s security and Art 5 solidarity serve only Putin’s interest.” He did not directly mention Trump.
CNN analyst Nick Paton Walsh was even more frank about the difference between Trump’s America First philosophy and that of NATO backers.
Arguing that NATO is indispensable to the United States, whether other members contribute or not, Walsh wrote, “[T]he U.S. will almost certainly always spend much more than anyone else on its military, regardless of its allies. NATO gives it a global bedrock of legitimacy, support for the dollar, and the post-Soviet hegemony it thrives upon.”
On Capitol Hill, there was concern on both sides of the political aisle that Trump’s isolationist propensities, on display once again, would undermine long-term plans to preserve the country’s standing in the world. Anticipating that he might follow through with his threats, the Senate has included an “impeachment time bomb” in the proposed Ukraine supplemental funding bill as a failsafe should Trump regain the White House, according to Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH).
Vance posted on X, “I just sent the below memo to every one of my Republican colleagues in Congress. Buried in the bill’s text is an impeachment time bomb for the next Trump presidency if he tries to stop funding the war in Ukraine. We must vote against this disastrous bill.”
In the attached letter, Vance said that the bill would call for Trump to be impeached again for essentially the same reason he was impeached in 2019, cutting off funding for Ukraine.
“If President Trump were to withdraw from or pause financial support for the war in Ukraine in order to bring the conflict to a peaceful conclusion, ‘over the objections of career experts,’ it would amount to the same fake violations of budget law from the first impeachment, under markedly similar facts and circumstances.”