Trump Says He’ll Defend NATO Allies Who Meet Spending Goals

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(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump said he would defend fellow NATO allies who have fulfilled their defense spending commitments, amid worries in some foreign capitals over the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s support for the military alliance.

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“Yes, 100%,” Trump said in an interview with British politician Nigel Farage on GB News, when asked if America would be there if NATO allies “start to play fair” over their spending obligations.

“The United States should pay its fair share, not everybody else’s fair share,” Trump said in the interview, which aired Tuesday, adding that he believed the US had paid a disproportionate share of the cost for the military alliance. “It’s more important to them than it is to us. We have an ocean in between some problems. We have a nice big, beautiful ocean.”

Trump, who is facing off with President Joe Biden in a general-election rematch, sparked alarm among US allies when he told attendees at a campaign rally in February that as president he warned a NATO leader he would allow Russia to have its way with members that did not meet their defense spending commitments.

“I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want,” Trump said, recounting the conversation with the unnamed leader. “You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills,” he added.

NATO members have a goal of spending 2% of their respective gross domestic product on defense.

Trump on Tuesday sought to characterize his comments as “a form of negotiation,” asking why the US should “guard these countries that have a lot of money.”

Earlier: NATO Chief Urges Allies to Ramp Up Military Supplies to Ukraine

Trump’s remarks came at a delicate time for the alliance, whose members are struggling to provide fresh support for Ukraine with Russia’s war now in its third year and with many European leaders worried about what a second Trump term could mean for US foreign policy. Trump sought closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin in office and at various points in his administration weighed pulling the US out of NATO entirely, regularly harping on the idea of allies not contributing their fair share.

On the campaign trail, he has been a persistent critic of US aid to Ukraine, saying he would push Kyiv to negotiate with Russia. Earlier this month he welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to his Mar-a-Lago resort, praising the fellow populist leader who has urged nations to cut off support for Ukraine and whose autocratic policies have rankled the European Union.

US assistance for Ukraine requested by Biden has been deadlocked in Congress as Republicans seek to extract concessions on domestic immigration policy. Trump pushed Republicans to kill a bipartisan immigration deal that would have unlocked billions in funding.

Biden has repeatedly blasted Trump for his remarks on NATO, calling the remarks “dangerous,” “shameful,” and “un-American” as he seeks to cast his rival as a threat to democratic institutions at home and abroad.

Farage is a close ally of Trump’s and the chief architect of Britain’s exit from the European Union. He joined Trump at rallies in 2020 and earlier this year campaigned with him in Iowa ahead of that state’s caucuses.

--With assistance from Hadriana Lowenkron.

(Updates with additional Trump comments in seventh paragraph)

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