Former President Donald J. Trump said Saturday that when he was president, he told leaders of NATO countries that he would “encourage” Russia “to do whatever it wants” to countries who have not paid the money they owe to the army. Alliance.
Mr. Trump did not say whether he ever intended to follow through on such a threat or what it would mean for the alliance, but his comment at a campaign event in South Carolina – a variation of the one he has done before to showcase his negotiating skills – is likely to raise concern among NATO member states, who are already very nervous about the prospect of a Trump return.
Mr Trump's suggestion that he would encourage Russian aggression against US allies – for whatever reason – comes as congressional Republicans have opposed more aid to Ukraine in its war against Russia, and that European officials have expressed concerns about possible Russian aid. aggression from the eastern side of NATO.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the warnings “threats” in an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that aired Thursday. “We have no interest in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else,” Mr. Putin said. .
But he also called on the United States to “make a deal” to end the war in Ukraine by ceding Ukrainian territory to Russia, comments that were seen by some as a call for American conservatives to block further involvement in the war.
Some European officials and foreign policy experts have said they fear Russia could invade a NATO country after its war with Ukraine ends, fears they say are heightened by the possibility of a return of Mr. Trump to the presidency.
In a statement, White House spokesman Andrew Bates called Mr. Trump's comments “appalling and unbalanced,” adding: “Rather than calling for war and promoting deranged chaos, President Biden will continue to strengthen American leadership and defend our nation. security interests – not against them.
Mr. Trump has previously expressed his belief that support for NATO was too much for the United States, saying the alliance was draining its financial and military resources. His campaign website says the country needs to reassess the organization's purpose.
He recalled in the past privately telling NATO members that the United States would not defend them against Russian attacks if they fell behind. Last year, he claimed in a campaign speech that “hundreds of billions of dollars flowed” into NATO after he made the threat.
On Saturday, he brought up the anecdote again, saying he had told European leaders they had to “pay up.”
Then, he said, the president “of a great country stood up and said, 'Well, sir, if we don't pay and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us?' ' »
Mr. Trump said he asked the other president if the country was “behind” on its payments. The leader replied: “Yes. Let’s say it happened,” Mr. Trump said.
“No, I wouldn’t protect you,” Mr. Trump recalled. “In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You must pay. You have to pay your bills.