In a recent statement that has stirred controversy, former President Donald Trump declared that, if re-elected, he would support Russia's actions against NATO member states that fail to fulfill their defense spending obligations. This stance underscores his critical view of the alliance's principle of collective defense.
During a rally in Conway, South Carolina, as reported by CNN, Trump expressed his past frustrations with NATO's financial dynamics, stating,
"NATO was busted until I came along. I said, 'Everybody's gonna pay.' They were shocked by my response when they asked if I would still protect them if they didn’t pay. I said, 'Absolutely not.'"
Following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO allies agreed to halt post-Cold War defense spending cuts and work towards dedicating 2% of their GDP to defense by 2024.
Trump shared an anecdote about a discussion with "the president of a major country," who inquired whether the U.S. would come to their defense in the event of a Russian invasion, given their lack of sufficient contributions. Trump's response was unequivocal:
"No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay your bills."
The White House responded to Trump's comments, labeling them as "appalling and unhinged," while highlighting President Joe Biden's efforts to strengthen the NATO alliance.
Trump's 2016 campaign already saw him challenging the status quo of Western alliances by suggesting that under his leadership, the U.S. might ignore its NATO treaty obligations and extend defense assistance only to countries meeting the alliance's financial requirements, specifically committing 2% of their GDP to military spending.