Trump defends NATO threats as ‘a form of negotiation’

Former President Trump defended his comments that Russia can “do whatever the hell they want” to delinquent NATO members as “a form of negotiation” in an interview with British politician Nigel Farage set to air on GB News on Tuesday.

Trump originally made the comment at a campaign rally in South Carolina in February, where he recounted telling an unnamed leader of a NATO country that he would “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes with allies that had fallen short of their financial commitments to the alliance.

Farage noted that those comments were now being used against Trump, and repeatedly asked the former president if he was committed to the alliance if other members carry their weight.

“I don’t care if they use it,” Trump said, again doubling down on the comment. “Because what I’m saying is a form of negotiation. Why should we guard these countries that have a lot of money and the United States was paying for most of NATO?”

NATO’s mutual defense pact guarantees the military backing of all members if one member nation is attacked. In 2014, NATO leadership pledged to reach obligations to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, after Russia first annexed Crimea from Ukraine. In 2017, the alliance dedicated more spending under pressure from Trump.

The former president told Farage that in meetings with NATO member nations, he “hit them hard” after “the head of a major country” asked what failure to pay would mean for U.S. backing against Russian aggression.

“I said ‘you mean you’re delinquent? You’re not paying the bills? Then no, I’m not going to pay you, we’re not going to do it,” Trump said.

“And hundreds of billions of dollars came flowing in,” he said.

Trump has long criticized NATO members for failing to spend 2 percent of their GDP, and his threats have drawn the ire of President Biden, who called his February comments “appalling and dangerous.”

Trump’s comments have also stoked fear that he may try to withdraw from the security alliance should he return to the White House. His former national security adviser John Bolton has said the U.S. would “almost certainly withdraw from NATO” in a second Trump term.

Last year, Congress passed legislation barring the president from unilaterally withdrawing from NATO without two-thirds approval from the Senate or an Act of Congress.

Pressed by Farage, Trump said that if NATO members pay “their fair share,” his administration would “100 percent” support the alliance.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.