Written by VANESSA GERA and LORNE COOK (Associated Press)
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The head of the NATO military alliance warned Sunday that Donald Trump was risking the safety of U.S. troops and allies after the Republican presidential candidate said Russia “must do it no matter what.” “I want” to NATO members who fail to meet their defense spending targets.
“Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines our entire security, including that of the United States, and puts American and European soldiers at further risk,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
Speaking at a rally in Conway, South Carolina, on Saturday, Trump recalled telling an unidentified NATO member that as president he would “encourage” Russia to do what it wants in the case of NATO allies who are “guilty.”
“’Didn’t you pay? Are you guilty?’” Trump was quoted as saying. ‘No, I won’t protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You must pay. You have to pay your bills.’”
These statements by Trump created deep concern in Poland, which has been under Russian control for the past centuries and where concerns are high about the war Russia is waging in Ukraine, just across the Polish border.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Sunday, “There is a hot war on our border,” and expressed concerns about whether the United States would show “full solidarity with other NATO countries in this conflict with Russia that promises to last for a long time.”
“We must understand that the EU cannot be a giant in terms of economy and civilization and a dwarf in terms of defense, because the world has changed,” he said in his speech at the town hall, which marked the beginning of his party’s local election campaign this spring.
In 2014, NATO allies pledged to spend 2% of GDP on defense by 2024. According to NATO estimates in early 2023, 10 of its 30 member states were spending on defense at that time, while 13 were near or above the 2% limit. 1.5% or less.
No country owes any debt to another or to NATO.
Stoltenberg said he expected “the United States to remain a strong and committed NATO ally, no matter who wins the presidential election.”
The German government did not officially comment on Trump’s statements, but the foreign office drew attention to NATO’s principle of solidarity in its statement on its old Twitter account, X.
“‘One for all, all for one.’ “This belief in NATO keeps more than 950 million people safe,” he said.
Trump’s comments were of particular concern to NATO front-line countries such as Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which were either under Moscow’s control or fully absorbed into the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Fears there are particularly high due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Polish President Andrzej Duda, who is allied with the right-wing opposition and was seen as a friend of Trump during his presidency, said on Twitter that the Polish-US alliance should be strong regardless of who is currently in power in Poland and the US. .”
He warned: “Disturbing half of the American political scene serves neither our economic interests nor Poland’s security.”
German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also called on European countries to spend more on defense in its editorial on Sunday.
It was stated that if Trump wins the presidency again, statements like the one he made on Saturday night “will increase the risk of expanding Putin’s war.” “There is only one thing Europeans can do to counter this: finally invest in their military security in line with the seriousness of the situation.”
Trump’s tenure, marked by his open admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, has become an almost existential challenge for NATO, an organization largely controlled by the United States. The possibility that Trump could return to power remains a source of deep concern among allies.
Stoltenberg has been praised for his diplomatic skills in keeping NATO together during the Trump years, but the former Norwegian prime minister is stepping down. His successor is likely to be announced when allied leaders meet in Washington for NATO’s 75th anniversary summit in July.
Under the mutual defense clause, Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty, all allies undertake to assist any member attacked. This article has only been activated once; by the United States following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
NATO has carried out its largest military build-up since the Cold War since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Cook reported from Brussels. Associated Press writer Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.