The former president clarified his stance on NATO this week.
Former President Donald Trump on Monday clarified his stance on NATO after facing pushback over comments he made about the military bloc if members did not spend enough on defense.
A statement posted to his Truth Social platform said that more NATO members would contribute if a strong U.S. leader pushes them meet the minimum requirement, which is 2 percent of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP). During his first term in office, the former president often said other members weren’t paying enough.
“When I told the 20 Countries that weren’t paying their fair share that they had to pay up, and said without doing that you will not have U.S. Military Protection, the money came rolling in,” he wrote on social media. “After so many years of the United States picking up the tab, it was a beautiful sight to see. But now, without me there to say you must pay, they are at it again.”
The United States, he added, is “into helping Ukraine for more than” $100 billion than the rest of the NATO member nations. “We have nobody that they respect, and they insist on paying far less than we do,” the former president said, adding that it’s “wrong” and that “NATO has to equalize” with the United States.
The failure of many of NATO’s 31 members to meet a defense spending target of at least 2 percent of GDP has long been a source of tension with the United States, whose armed forces form the core the alliance’s military power. NATO estimates have shown that only 11 members are spending at the target level.
Article 5 of the NATO treaty says that an armed attack against an alliance member will be considered an attack against them all, triggering collective self-defense.
His comment comes after he said over the weekend at a South Carolina event that the military bloc members increased their defense spending under pressure to assist the United States. In particular, Democrats and some Republicans took issue with President Trump’s comments that he would not defend ally states if they were attacked by Russia and if they were delinquent on payments.
“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? He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay,” President Trump said in South Carolina.
Reacting to the comment, President Joe Biden wrote on social media that “the promise of NATO—that an attack on one is an attack on all—keeps American families safe.” He added, ““It’s that simple. Any individual who calls into question the durability of that vow is a danger to our security.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Reuters in a brief hallway interview that he disagreed “with the way [President Trump] said it,” referring to the NATO remarks. But he noted: “Russia didn’t invade anybody when he was president, and if he’s president again they won’t.”
Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, or about a year after President Biden took office.
“Virtually every American president at some point, in some way, has complained about other countries in NATO not doing enough. Trump’s just the first one to express it in these terms. But I have zero concern, because he’s been president before,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview with CNN.
The former president’s remarks come after the U.S. Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid bill with assistance to Ukraine and Israel during an early Tuesday vote. The upper chamber voted 70-29 to approve the measure, and it included 22 GOP senators.
While the bill heads to the House, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said on Monday evening that he likely will not take up the bill for debate on the floor because it doesn’t include anything to address the U.S.-Mexico border. Last week, an attempt to pair the foreign aid with a border package failed in the Senate, with many Republicans criticizing the bill as being too lax on illegal immigration.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who voted in favor of the measure, said the bill’s passage is a “commitment to rebuild and modernize our military, restore our credibility, and give the current commander in chief, as well as the next, more tools to secure our interest,” according to a statement Monday.
Among those who did not back the measure, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) warned this week that if the bill gets passed, President Trump could face impeachment if he is reelected because it would tie his hands on Ukraine if he gets elected in 2024.
“The supplemental represents an attempt by the foreign policy blob/deep state to stop President Trump from pursuing his desired policy, and if he does so anyways, to provide grounds to impeach him and undermine his administration. All Republicans should oppose its passage,” his office said in a memo.
Reuters contributed to this report.