Trump NATO comments draw scrutiny from alliance leader

North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg criticized former President Donald Trump for suggesting that if member countries were “delinquent” with their defense contribution obligations, he would allow Russia to attack them.

“NATO remains ready and able to defend all allies,” Stoltenberg said Sunday. “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. I expect that regardless of who wins the presidential election the U.S. will remain a strong and committed NATO ally.” 

Stoltenberg’s rebuke came after Trump made the comments at a campaign rally on Saturday, where the former president recalled a NATO member asking if the United States would still protect them against Russia if they were delinquent on their payments.

“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’” Trump recounted. “‘No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You’ve got to pay. You’ve got to pay your bills.’”

During his time in office, Trump harshly criticized NATO members for benefitting from the U.S. military but not being willing to meet their basic obligations to being part of the Western alliance.

Only seven of the organization’s 31 members met their 2% GDP spending obligation in 2022, according to NATO statistics from last year — a slight increase from 2014 when only three members met their obligations.

Other Europeans weighed in as well, with European Union Council president Charles Michel saying, “Reckless statements on #NATO’s security and Art 5 solidarity serve only [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s interest.”

Polish Defense Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz posted to X on Sunday, as translated from Polish to English by Google Translate, “NATO’s motto ‘one for all, all for one’ is a concrete commitment. Undermining the credibility of allied countries means weakening the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organization. No election campaign is an excuse for playing with the security of the Alliance.”

The White House also criticized Trump’s comments, claiming the Biden administration is responsible for NATO being the “largest and most vital it has ever been.”

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“Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged – and it endangers American national security, global stability, and our economy at home,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates continued.

NATO members are duty-bound by Treaty Article 5, which stipulates that if a member country is attacked, “each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the ally attacked.”

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