Donald Trump on Saturday said he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to any NATO country that he feels aren’t pulling their weight if he is re-elected.
At a rally in Conway, South Carolina Trump told the audience about an alleged conversation he had with a president “of a big country” about spending guidelines of NATO countries.
“NATO was busted until I came along. I said, ‘Everybody’s going to pay.’ They said, ‘Well, if we don’t pay are you still going to protect us?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ They couldn’t believe the answer,” Trump said.
“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?’ I said, ‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’ He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want,” Trump continued.
“You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills,” Trump, notorious for not paying his bills, said.
Central to the NATO agreement is Article 5 which states that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all the nations in the alliance. The alliance has taken on renewed importance after Russian President Vladimir Putin unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. NATO requires each member country spends a minimum of 2% of gross domestic product on defense.
Trump has repeatedly accused some member countries of not meeting that requirement while he was president. However, as CNN noted, while some member countries have failed to meet that 2% threshold, no country has been failing to pay their share of NATO’s common budget to run the organization.
Trump has threatened to withdraw the US from the alliance in the past. But, as of last December he is unable to do so.
An amendment passed as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act made it nearly impossible for a president to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the alliance without congressional approval.