The head of NATO has accused Donald Trump of putting lives at risk by suggesting that Russia should invade member countries that don’t ‘pay up’.
Jens Stoltenberg hit back after the Republican front-runner said he would ‘encourage’ Russia to ‘do whatever the hell they want’ if it attacked a country not paying the required 2% of national income.
The White House called the words ‘appalling and unhinged’, and the chief of the defensive alliance added his voice to the storm of protest unleashed by Trump’s comments to a campaign rally in South Carolina.
‘Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,’ he said in a statement.
‘NATO remains ready and able to defend all allies. Any attack on NATO 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.’
Donald Trump has claimed he would encourage Russia to attack NATO members that don’t pay their share of the alliance’s budget
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned that ‘any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security’ as he tore into the Republican frontrunner’s remarks
Trump was seen being embraced by wife Melania after arriving back at Mar-a-Lago later on Saturday evening
The former president was met with cheers as he made his promise to supporters in Conway on Saturday.
‘The president of a big country stood up and said ‘if we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?’ he told the crowd.
‘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 (Russia) to do whatever the hell they want, you gotta pay! You gotta pay your bills.’
Trump flew back to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after the rally, where he walked through a ballroom full of cheering supporters to embrace his wife Melania.
The White House said Trump’s words ‘promoted dangerous chaos’, and would embolden Russia’s President Putin.
‘President Biden has restored our alliances and made us stronger in the world because he knows every commander in chief’s first responsibility is to keep the American people safe and hold true to the values that unite us,’ it said.
‘Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged – and it endangers American national security, global stability, and our economy at home.
‘Rather than calling for wars and promoting deranged chaos, President Biden will continue to bolster American leadership and stand up for our national security interests – not against them.’
Trump’s former communications director, Alyssa Farah Griffin, wrote on Twitter that his declaration that he would not help NATO allies was ‘music to Putin’s ears’.
Griffin, who is now a co-host of The View, also called Trump a ‘sad old man’ for taunting his opponent Nikki Haley about her husband not being with her on the campaign trail because he is serving with the National Guard in Africa.
DailyMail.com previously revealed claims Haley cheated on her husband with two other men, with Trump seemingly making vague reference to the scandal in his remarks.
Other prominent figures including lawmakers, retired military officers, journalists, and congressmen expressed horror at Trump’s remarks online.
Trump’s former communications director, Alyssa Farah Griffin, wrote on Twitter that his declaration that he would not help NATO allies was ‘music to Putin’s ears’
Trump has in the past praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, and even sided with him over US intelligence agencies when Putin denied meddling in the 2016 election
But Richard Grenell, who was Trump’s Ambassador to Germany in 2018-20 and Acting Director of National Intelligence in the last months of the Trump Administration, backed up his old boss.
He also suggested Trump was referring to a conversation with a German chancellor, although the former president gave no clue as to which leader he was speaking with.
‘Germany, the largest economy in Europe and a country that has budget surpluses most every year, started increasing its NATO obligation only after Trump pressured them,’ he claimed.
‘Biden no longer pressures Germany and so they aren’t increasing anymore. Today, the Germans still aren’t paying the required 2% for NATO members.
‘The only lesson for the US taxpayer is that we must have a US president who exerts big pressure on Germany.’
NATO members are not ‘required’ to spend two per cent of their GDP on defense, it is a guideline the alliance agreed to work towards in 2014 – well before Trump.
Trump at the rally also repeated his frequent, and dubious, claim that while president he strong-armed European allies into paying more for defense.
‘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,’ he said.
Another former ambassador, Michael McFaul, who was Barack Obama’s man in Russia in 2012-14, pointed out Trump didn’t understand how NATO worked.
‘This is crazy. And 8 years later, Trump shows that he STILL doesn’t understand how NATO works! It’s not a protection racket. They don’t pay us to protect them,’ he wrote on Twitter.
Trump claimed twice during his speech repeated his frequent claim that while president he strong-armed European allies into paying more for defense
Trump often claims he single-handedly convinced NATO members to contribute more, but there is no account of this ever taking place.
As McFaul explained, NATO funding also doesn’t work how Trump frequently claims it does, and his boasting doesn’t mesh with reality.
No NATO member is failing to pay its share of the alliance’s $3 billion common budget, which is based on GDP and which the US pays 16 per cent of.
Separate to that, NATO members in 2014 – before Trump even entered the presidential race – pledged to boost their defense spending.
A target of two per cent of GDP by 2024 was set, in response to Russia annexing Crimea from Ukraine, and defense spending by the 29 NATO countries has steadily increased.
This plan was created well before Trump had any influence on NATO countries, but he took credit for it dozens of time over the past eight years.
Trump during a New Hampshire town hall last month also made the same wildly incorrect claim, and argued NATO was ‘taking advantage’ of the US.
‘The European countries took advantage of… I want to use the word starting with an S, but I don’t want to do it because I see some young, very good-looking children in the audience, and I assume they’re watching on television,’ he said.
‘But they took advantage of us on trade, and then they took advantage of us on our military protection.
‘Of the 28 countries at the time, only eight countries were paid up. We were paying the difference.
Trump speaks at a ‘Get Out the Vote’ Rally in Conway, South Carolina
‘And I went to them. I said, ‘if you don’t pay, we’re not going to protect you’. And they said, ‘do you mean that?’ I said, ‘I mean that’. And the next day, billions of dollars poured into NATO.’
Trump threatened to withdraw from NATO several times while he was president, calling it ‘obsolete’ and a drain on American resources.
This is despite the about $500 million the US pays in direct funding being dwarfed by the $842 billion defense budget.
Congress got so concerned Trump could unilaterally withdraw form NATO if he won a second term that it passed a law in December requiring the president to get a two-third majority of the Senate to do so.
Trump has also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, and even sided with him over US intelligence agencies when Putin denied meddling in the 2016 election.
Putin denied he had any interest in attacking NATO countries, like Poland and the Baltic states, in his controversial interview with Tucker Carlson.
‘Only in one case, if Poland attacks Russia. We have no interest in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else. Why would we do that? We simply don’t have any interest. It is absolutely out of the question,’ he said.
Putin denied he had any interest in attacking NATO countries, like Poland and the Baltic states, in his controversial interview with Tucker Carlson
French soldiers take part in a major drill as part of NATO’s ‘enhanced forward presence’ (EFP) deployment in Poland and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 2022
Trump’s claim he would ‘encourage’ Russia to attack NATO allies had eerie parallels to when he called on Russian hackers to find emails from Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in the US presidential election.
‘Russia, if you’re listening. I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,’ he said in July 2016 during the election campaign.
Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow appeared to heed the call — targeting Clinton’s personal office and hitting more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.
That was according to a grand jury indictment charging 12 Russian military intelligence officers with hacking into the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party as part of a sweeping conspiracy by the Kremlin to meddle in the election.