Former U.S. President Donald Trump said on Feb. 10 if reelected, he would endorse Russia to do "whatever the hell they want" to NATO member countries failing to meet defense spending criteria, in a declaration indicating his disregard for the alliance's collective-defense principle.
"NATO was busted until I came along," Trump said at a rally in Conway, South Carolina, CNN reported. "I said, 'Everybody's gonna 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."
In 2014, NATO allies reached an agreement following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula to cease the reduction in defense spending implemented after the Cold War and aim to allocate 2% of their GDPs to defense by 2024.
Trump recounted a conversation with "the president of a major country" who queried whether the U.S. would defend them if invaded by Russia despite their insufficient contributions.
"No, I would not protect you," Trump recalled telling that president. "In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills."
The White House later Saturday called Trump’s remarks "appalling and unhinged" and touted President Joe Biden’s efforts to bolster the alliance.
During his 2016 campaign, Trump unsettled Western allies by suggesting that the U.S., if he were in charge, could forsake its NATO treaty obligations and offer defense assistance solely to nations adhering to the alliance's criteria, which require committing two percent of their gross domestic products to military expenditure.