Republican front-runner Donald Trump said Saturday that, as president, he warned NATO allies that he “would encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to countries that are “delinquent” as he ramped up his attacks on foreign aid and longstanding international alliances.
Speaking at a rally in Conway, South Carolina, Trump recounted a story he has told before about an unidentified NATO member who confronted him over his threat not to defend members who fail to meet the trans-Atlantic alliance’s defense spending targets.
But this time, Trump went further, saying had told the member that he would, in fact, “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes in that case.
“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’” Trump recounted saying. “‘No I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.’”
NATO allies agreed in 2014, after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, to halt the spending cuts they had made after the Cold War and move toward spending 2% of their GDPs on defense by 2024.
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates responded, saying that: “Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged – and it endangers American national security, global stability, and our economy at home.”
Trump’s comments come as Ukraine remains mired in its efforts to stave off Russia’s 2022 invasion and as Republicans in Congress have become increasingly skeptical of providing additional aid money to the country as it struggles with stalled counteroffensives and weapons shortfalls.
They also come as Trump and his team are increasingly confident he will lock up the nomination in the coming weeks following commanding victories in the first votes of the 2024 Republican nominating calendar.
Earlier Saturday, Trump called for the end of foreign aid “WITHOUT “STRINGS” ATTACHED,” arguing that the U.S. should dramatically curtail the way it provides money.
“FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, ARE YOU LISTENING U.S. SENATE(?), NO MONEY IN THE FORM OF FOREIGN AID SHOULD BE GIVEN TO ANY COUNTRY UNLESS IT IS DONE AS A LOAN, NOT JUST A GIVEAWAY,” Trump wrote on his social media network in all-caps letters.
Trump went on to say the money could be loaned “ON EXTRAORDINARILY GOOD TERMS,” with no interest and no date for repayment. But he said that, “IF THE COUNTRY WE ARE HELPING…