Former US President and possible Republican candidate in the forthcoming elections, Donald Trump, has made a controversial statement suggesting that he would support Russia in invading North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) member states if they fail to allocate sufficient budgets for their defense. He made this statement during an election conference in South Carolina. He recalled a conversation with a president of a developing country who asked whether the US would protect them if Russia attacked and they hadn’t paid their defense budget. Trump’s response was that he would not protect them but instead, would encourage Russia to do as they wish.
The White House was swift in condemning Trump’s remarks. Andrew Bates, the spokesperson for the White House, praised President Biden’s leadership, stating that NATO is currently at its largest and most critical state. Bates also highlighted the importance of American nationalism, global stability, and the domestic economy.
During his presidency, Trump insisted that NATO countries must fulfill their obligation of allocating at least two percent of their GDP for defense. He accused these member states of exploiting American defense and the money of US taxpayers.
There are rising concerns that if Trump is re-elected, he could harm the alliance’s core and stimulate Russian President Vladimir Putin to attempt military action against neighboring countries. As such, European countries have recommended the enhancement of the European Union’s independent military dimension as a safeguard in the event of an American support loss.
Meanwhile, in December, Congress approved a defense budget section stating that a president cannot command a NATO withdrawal without a Senate two-thirds majority. However, experts have expressed that this may not be sufficient. Ivo Daehler, a former US ambassador to NATO under President Obama, stated that while it’s crucial that Congress strongly supports American NATO membership, this does not stop the US from reducing or completely halting its commitment to NATO.
At the rally, Trump also opposed the foreign aid budget proposal currently under discussion in Congress. This includes $14.1 billion in security aid to Israel and $60.1 billion to Ukraine. Directed by Trump, Republicans continue to hinder aid approval, insisting that the Biden administration enforce stricter measures against illegal immigration at the Mexican border. This is despite a bipartisan proposal developed in the Senate to address the issue.
Trump criticized the proposed foreign aid budget, questioning why the US should give $100 billion to certain countries. He suggested that instead of giving such a large amount, it should be loaned to these countries.
Trump also made a contentious statement about his only opponent in the Republican primaries, Nikki Haley. He questioned the whereabouts of her husband, Major Michael Haley, who is currently stationed in Africa as part of the South Carolina National Guard. In response, Haley tweeted that her husband is serving their country, something she claims Trump knows nothing about. She added that anyone who continues to disrespect military families’ sacrifices lacks the capability to be the commander-in-chief.