Trump comments Russia and NATO ‘scary and shocked’ – White House By Reuters

©Reuters. Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he holds a campaign rally at Coastal Carolina University ahead of the South Carolina Republican presidential primary in Conway, South Carolina, U.S., February 10, 2024. REU

By Andrea Shalal

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – The White House on Saturday rejected former U.S. President Donald Trump’s claims that NATO allies were failing to protect themselves from a potential Russian invasion, calling them “appalling and shocking.”

Trump, appearing to recount a meeting with NATO leaders at a political rally in South Carolina on Saturday, quoted the president of “a great country” whom he did not name as asking, “Well, sir, if we don’t pay, what about us” we are attacked by Russia: will you protect us?”

“I said, ‘Didn’t you pay? Are you a criminal?’ He said, ‘Yes, let’s say it happened’. No, I wouldn’t protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You have to pay.”

White House spokesman Andrew Bates, when asked about Trump’s comments, said: “Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and shocking – and endangers America’s national security, global stability and our internal economy”.

The NATO treaty contains a provision guaranteeing mutual defense of member states in the event of attack.

Trump, the favorite for the Republican presidential nomination, was a fierce critic of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization when he was president, repeatedly threatening to withdraw from the alliance. He cut NATO defense funding and often complained that the United States was paying more than its fair share.

Bates said President Joe Biden, a Democrat seeking re-election in the November election, has restored U.S. alliances after taking office in 2021, ensuring that NATO is now “the largest and most vital it has ever been.” .

“Rather than calling for wars and promoting unbalanced chaos, President Biden will continue to strengthen American leadership and defend our national security interests, not against them,” he said in a statement released Saturday evening.

With Trump leading Biden in some polls, European allies fear that a Trump victory in November could jeopardize US commitment to the alliance, but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last month he did not believe that a second Trump presidency would jeopardize US membership.

Stoltenberg, who has pushed member states to increase defense spending, said European allies were increasing their military contributions and “moving in the right direction.”

Trump has continued to hammer the transatlantic alliance, declaring at a campaign rally last month that he did not believe NATO countries would support the United States if they were attacked.

On Russia’s war in Ukraine, Trump called for a de-escalation and lamented the billions spent so far, even as he made few tangible policy proposals.

Since Moscow’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, US aid to Ukraine has amounted to around $75 billion, Stoltenberg said, while other NATO members and partner states combined have provided more than $100 billion.

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