The former US president had challenged Washington’s NATO allies over their failure to pay their share of the bloc’s defenses
Former US president Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about NATO members’ failure to pay their share of the bloc’s defense costs put the whole alliance at risk, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned in a statement on Sunday.
“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, reiterating that the bloc remained “ready and able to defend all allies.”
Any attack on a NATO member country would trigger a “united and forceful response,” Stoltenberg pledged.
“I expect that regardless of who wins the presidential election, the US will remain a strong and committed NATO ally,” he added.
Speaking to a rally crowd in South Carolina on Saturday, Trump had suggested Washington might leave a NATO member that hadn’t paid its membership dues to fend for itself in the event of an attack, in order to teach a lesson about fiscal responsibility.
“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’” the former president recalled addressing the unnamed nation. “‘No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.’”
NATO members pledged in 2014 to spend 2% of their GDP on defense by 2025. Just 10 of the bloc’s 30 members had met those obligations and 13 were spending 1.5% of GDP or less as of last year, according to its own estimates.
While much of the media discussion of Trump’s supposed threat framed it as a challenge to the Baltic states and Poland, Warsaw actually led the bloc in defense contributions by percentage last year, tithing 3.9% of its GDP – more than Washington’s 3.49% donation. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia all gave over 2% last year as well, placing all of them well out of reach of any threatened lapse in mutual defense under another Trump presidency.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk nevertheless expressed concern about the “hot war” at his country’s border with Ukraine, questioning whether the US would show “full solidarity with other NATO countries in this confrontation that promises to last for a long time with Russia.”
His words echoed Stoltenberg’s own in an interview with Germany’s Die Welt on Sunday, in which the NATO chief urged members to ramp up arms production to wartime levels in order to prepare for a “confrontation” with Moscow “that could last decades.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied his country is interested in attacking any NATO country, even Poland or the Baltics. Last week, he told journalist Tucker Carlson it was instead western governments “trying to intimidate their own population with an imaginary Russian threat.”