Friday, February 23, 2024

NATO leader warns Donald Trump is putting troops at risk after he threatens international alliance

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NATO’s secretary general issued a warning to leaders around the world after former President Donald Trump stirred fears about the future of the organization at a campaign stop Saturday.

Trump, during a South Carolina rally, criticized countries in the international alliance that haven’t met certain goals. NATO members are asked to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense, and the former president has often targeted nations that haven’t reached that bar.

But Trump on Saturday recalled a conversation he claims he had when he was in office, saying “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?’”

‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’ He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. Trump added: “In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”

‘Increased risk’

The former president’s comments immediately drew backlash, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg saying in a statement on Sunday Trump’s attack could endanger both civilians and troops.

“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,” Stoltenberg said in a statement. “I expect that regardless of who wins the presidential election, the US will remain a strong and committed NATO ally.”

NATO’s charter requires members to come to the aid of others if they are attacked.

Trump’s latest comments, however, also drew criticism from within America’s borders. President Joe Biden in a statement released by his reelection campaign said: “If my opponent, Donald Trump, is able to regain power, he is making it clear as day that he will abandon our NATO allies if Russia attacks and allow Russia to ‘do whatever the hell they want’ with them.”

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is running against Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, said NATO countries need to pull their weight, but Trump’s bashing of the alliance is counterproductive.

Trump’s comments “put every military member in danger” and “every country in danger,” Haley told Fox News.

“The last thing you do is side with a guy who kills his opponents, side with a guy who has imprisoned Evan Gershkovich because he was a journalist, side with the guy who’s made no beef about the fact that he wants to destroy America,” Haley said. “And you’re going to side with a thug like that? What are we doing in America?

Criticism from Europe

Some European leaders noted that Trump has long taken this threatening tone toward the trans-Atlantic alliance.

On the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, European Council President Charles Michel said “reckless statements” on NATO security “serve only Putin’s interest. They do not bring more security or peace to the world.”

The Kremlin, meanwhile, declined to comment on Trump’s latest anti-NATO comments. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “I am still Putin’s press secretary, but not Trump’s.”

The former president in a post on Truth Social on Monday claimed he made NATO “strong” during his term in office.

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