Nikki Haley Reacts After Trump Says He's 'Encouraged' Russia to 'Do Whatever the Hell They Want' to Some NATO Allies

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Speaking on "Face the Nation," Haley criticized Trump for taking "the side of a thug who kills his opponents," referring to Vladimir Putin

<p>AP Photo/Morry Gash(2)</p> Nikki Haley (left), Donald Trump

AP Photo/Morry Gash(2)

Nikki Haley (left), Donald Trump

Nikki Haley is warning that Donald Trump has put the United States and its allies at risk after the former president said at a campaign rally that he "would not protect" NATO countries that have not paid their dues — a comment that garnered swift bipartisan backlash.

NATO — the American-European military alliance that currently includes 31 member countries, including the U.S. — was established in 1949 as a means of providing collective security against the Soviet Union.

Related: Biden Warns That Chance of Nuclear 'Armageddon' Is Highest Since 1960s: Putin Is 'Not Joking'

Trump, at a South Carolina rally held on Saturday, claimed that when he was president he told an unidentified NATO member country that he would “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes with NATO countries that do not contribute 2% of their gross domestic product to defense spending.

“You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?” Trump recalled previously telling the NATO member. “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."

As the Associated Press notes, NATO members are not required to spend 2% of their GDPs toward their military budgets, though it's a goal that members have agreed to work towards.

Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg via Getty
Michelle Gustafson/Bloomberg via Getty

Reacting to Trump's shocking comments, Haley told Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan that "NATO has been a success story for the last 75 years," and that if she were elected president she would "absolutely" adhere to the principle that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.

"What bothers me about [Trump's comment] is, don't take the side of a thug who kills his opponents. Don't take the side of someone who has gone in and invaded a country," Haley continued, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his ongoing invasion of Ukraine. "And half a million people have died or been wounded because of Putin."

Related: Death Toll Rises After Russia Invades Ukraine in 'Full-Scale Attack,' NATO Sending More Forces to Region

Elaborating on the danger of isolating any NATO allies, Haley said, "What we always need to remember is America needs to have friends. ... Now, we do want NATO allies to pull their weight, but there are ways you can do that without sitting there and telling Russia, 'Have your way with these countries.'"

OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Nikki Haley, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, meets with Donald Trump in the Oval Office in 2018
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Nikki Haley, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, meets with Donald Trump in the Oval Office in 2018

Trump's assertion that NATO member countries must pay a certain amount in order to receive protection from their allies has been described by many officials as reckless.

“NATO remains ready and able to defend all Allies. Any attack on NATO will be met with a united and forceful response. Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S., and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,” NATO Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg said in a statement, per CBS News.

Related: Vladimir Putin Mimics Donald Trump's Talking Point That Criminal Indictments Are Political 'Persecution'

President Joe Biden also slammed Trump for the remarks, saying in his own statement: “Donald Trump’s admission that he intends to give Putin a green light for more war and violence, to continue his brutal assault against a free Ukraine, and to expand his aggression to the people of Poland and the Baltic States are appalling and dangerous."

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

Trump has sharply criticized NATO in the past — even referring to the alliance as "obsolete" and threatening to withdraw the U.S. from the post-World War II coalition.

Meanwhile, during his term in office, Trump often spoke in glowing terms about Putin, showing an unusual affinity for Russia's authoritarian president and saying that a closer relationship with Russia was in America's best strategic interests.

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