NATO Chief Leads Outcry Over Trump's Russia Stance

Candidate's comments put nations, troops at risk, secretary-general says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2024 4:50 PM CST
NATO Chief Leads Outcry to Trump's Russia Stance
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan address a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

The head of NATO led an international response Sunday denouncing Donald Trump's comment that he would encourage Russia to do "whatever the hell they want" to members of the alliance who, in his view, don't contribute enough money to the collective defense. "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," Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement, per the AP. Trump's comments and the response:

  • "I would not protect you": In a speech in South Carolina on Saturday night, Trump described his response when president about what he'd do if a NATO member that had not kicked in enough was attacked by Russia. "Well, sir, if we don't pay, and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us?" he quoted another president as asking him. No, Trump said he answered, per Politico. "In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want." No country owes NATO money, per the AP.
  • President Biden: Trump's likely opponent in November called the remarks "appalling and dangerous," per the Hill. "Sadly, they are also predictable coming from a man who is promising to rule as a dictator," Biden's statement said.
  • Poland: A quick response came from the nation that was under Russian control in past centuries and is watching Russia's invasion of Ukraine next door. "We have a hot war at our border," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Sunday. He expressed concern about whether the US will show "full solidarity with other NATO countries in this confrontation that promises to last for a long time." President Andrzej Duda, a right-wing ally who was friendly with Trump during his term, posted that the Poland-US alliance must remain strong "regardless of who is currently in power in Poland and the USA."
  • European Council: President Charles Michel was among those who said the beneficiary of Trump's statement is Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Reckless statements on NATO's security and Art 5 solidarity serve only Putin's interest," Michel said, per CNN. "They do not bring more security or peace to the world."
  • Germany: The German government issued no official response, though its foreign office invoked NATO's principle of solidary in an online post. "'One for all and all for one.' This NATO creed keeps more than 950 million people safe," the post said.
  • About the "one for all" part: Peter Baker points out in a New York Times analysis that when Trump's White House staff explained to him how NATO's mutual defense obligations worked, he didn't buy in. "You mean, if Russia attacked Lithuania, we would go to war with Russia?" he said at the time. "That's crazy."
  • What's ahead: Although leaders of European nations said they were stunned by Trump's anecdote, they already were thinking about a future without the US anchoring NATO, David Sanger says in a Times analysis. Those discussions now may become more public and more urgent, Sanger writes. A member of Germany's parliament posted on X that "Everyone should watch this video of #Trump to understand that Europe may soon have no choice but to defend itself."
(More Donald Trump 2024 stories.)

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