The head of the NATO military alliance Jens Stoltenberg yesterday said that Donald Trump was putting the safety of US troops and their allies at risk after he said that Russia should be able to do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO members who don’t meet their defence spending targets.
Stoltenberg said that Trump’s comments put both the US and European troops at greater risk. Trump said that he had told allies that he would “encourage” Russia to attack any Nato member that failed to meet the alliance’s target of 2% of their GDP.
In a statement, Stoltenberg emphasised the alliance remains “ready and able” to defend its members and any attack “will be met with a united and forceful response”.
“I expect that regardless of who wins the presidential election the US will remain a strong and committed Nato ally,” he added.
Members of NATO, a military alliance defend en block if they are attacked.
US President Joe Biden described Trump’s comments as “appalling and dangerous”, and that it gave Russian President Vladimir Putin “a green light for more war and violence”.
On February 10, Trump addressing a rally in South Carolina recalled that the leader of a “big country” had talked about a hypothetical situation in which a member country was not meeting its financial obligations within Nato and had come under attack from Moscow.
He said the leader had asked if the US would come to his country’s aid in that scenario, which prompted him to issue a rebuke.
“I said: ‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’… ‘No I would not protect you, in fact I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You gotta pay.'”
Trump, a front runner for the Republican nomination for this year’s presidential election did not clearly mention which nation or head of state it was.
According to Nato’s own figures, 19 of its 30 member nations including Germany, Norway and France were spending below the target of 2% of their annual GDP on defence, while those bordering Russia.
In an interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that former US president Bill Clinton told him Russia could be welcomed into Nato.