White House hopeful Donald Trump said on Saturday he would “encourage” Russia to attack members of NATO who had not met their financial obligations, his most extreme broadside against the military alliance he has long expressed scepticism about.
With U.S. lawmakers debating new aid for Ukraine ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion, the former President has repeatedly said it was unfair to commit the U.S. to defending NATO’s 30 other member nations.
Speaking at a campaign rally in South Carolina Saturday, Mr. Trump described a conversation with a fellow head of state at an unspecified NATO meeting.
“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?'”
“No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”
Mr. Trump’s remark comes after Senate Republicans on Wednesday rejected a bipartisan bill that would have included sorely needed new funding for Ukraine, plus aid for ally Israel, along with reforms to address the US-Mexico border crisis.
The White House hit back at Trump’s assertions, touting President Joe Biden’s efforts to bolster alliances around the globe.
“Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement Saturday night.
“Rather than calling for wars and promoting deranged chaos, President Biden will continue to bolster American leadership,” Bates added.