Republicans frontrunner candidate and presumptive 2024 White House nominee, Donald Trump has said he would “encourage” Russia to attack any of the US’s Nato allies whom he considers to have not met their financial obligations.
In a swift rejoinder, the White House however described the remarks as “appalling and unhinged”.
The former president made the statement on Saturday, February 10, during a campaign rally in Conway, South Carolina.
The remarks are bound to raise alarm among many in the political space ahead of the South Carolina’s Republican presidential preference primary on February, 24.
Trump has voiced misgivings about aid to Ukraine as it defends itself from the invasion launched by Russia in February 2022 – as well as to the existence of Nato, the 31-nation alliance which the US has committed to defending when necessary.
On Saturday, Trump claimed that during an unspecified Nato meeting he told a fellow head of state that the US under his leadership would not defend any countries who were “delinquent”.
“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?’” Trump said, adding “I said, ‘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 got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”
Nato countries agreed in 2014, after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, to halt the spending cuts they had made after the cold war and move toward spending 2% of their GDPs on defense by 2024.
As of 2022, Nato reported that seven of what are now 31 Nato member countries were meeting that obligation – up from three in 2014. Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has spurred additional military spending by some Nato members.