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Donald Trump has warned NATO allies that they will encourage Russia to “do whatever they want” if alliance members fail to meet defense spending targets.
Trump's comments came during a campaign rally ahead of the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina this month, which could help him seal his party's nomination to run against Joe Biden in the November election.
The former US president, who has long been a critic of NATO and has a warm relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, told supporters that “NATO was defeated until I came along.” He said that during his tenure he insisted to European allies that “everyone is going to pay”.
Trump recalled that the president of a NATO member country had asked if the United States would defend Russia in the event of a Russian attack.
Trump responded, “I will not protect you. “Really, I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You have to pay. You have to pay your dues,” he recalled.
Trump's comments signal that if re-elected president, he could threaten the commitment to mutual security at the heart of the NATO alliance at a time when fears of Russia have grown sharply in the wake of its war on Ukraine. The former president recently pressured Congress to resist approving new aid to Kyiv, which is critical on the battlefield.
Poland's Defense Minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz criticized Trump's comments on Sunday. NATO's motto “One for all, one for all” is a firm commitment. No election campaign is an excuse to play with the alliance's security,” he posted on X.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he expects “at least half” of its members to meet the self-imposed target of spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense.
“NATO is a good deal for the United States. With NATO, the United States has more friends and allies than any other power,” he said during a trip to Washington last month. Urging the United States to restate its commitment to the alliance, he said a divided NATO meant “diminished American power.” He also said that it means.
Italian senator Carlo Calenda, a former minister and now leader of the centrist opposition, wrote in X on Sunday: “This madman [Trump] The greatest danger to the West. . . The EU should prepare for the event of his victory by accelerating the Common Security Programme.
After victories in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary last month and the Nevada caucuses this week, Trump is the favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination.
During the South Carolina rally, Trump also mocked the husband of Nikki Haley, his primary rival for the Republican nomination. Michael Haley, Army National Guard, currently deployed in Africa.
“What happened to her husband? What happened to her husband? where is he He's gone,” Trump said.
Trump's dire warning to NATO members and his crackdown on targeting a member of the military stationed abroad are reminiscent of the divisive rhetoric fueling his campaign and energizing the Republican base.
Haley, who has sharpened her criticism of Trump in recent weeks, said during a campaign stop in Lexington, South Carolina: “Donald, if you have something to say, don't say it behind my back. Get on a debate platform and say it to my face.
“If you mock the service of a war veteran, you don't deserve a driver's license, let alone the president of the United States,” he added. Haley did not address Trump's comments on NATO.
A White House spokesman said: “The promotion of invasions by murderous regimes of our closest allies is appalling and unconscionable – and it endangers US national security, global stability and our economy at home.”
Trump, 77, is slightly ahead in national polling averages, measuring a head-to-head race against Biden, 81. The president's re-election bid was rocked this week by the release of the special counsel's report. Robert Hurr handled classified documents when he was vice president under Barack Obama.
Harr did not release any allegations against Biden, but cited the president's “poor memory,” prompting new concerns about the president's age and mental health.
Additional reporting by Amy Cosm in Rome