Trump defiant even after backlash over Nato remarks

Published February 14, 2024
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he holds a campaign rally at Coastal Carolina University ahead of the South Carolina Republican presidential primary in Conway, South Carolina, U.S., February 10, 2024. — Reuters
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he holds a campaign rally at Coastal Carolina University ahead of the South Carolina Republican presidential primary in Conway, South Carolina, U.S., February 10, 2024. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: For­mer US president Donald Trump defended his record on Nato, saying he had made it “strong” after sparking a firestorm of criticism over comments downplaying his commitment to the alliance.

Trump was rebuked from all sides after saying in a speech Saturday that he would “encourage” Russia to attack members of Nato who had not met their financial obligations, in his most extreme broadside against the organization.

Trump has long complained about Nato, accusing Western allies of being freeloaders that do not pull their weight on military spending, taking for granted that they can rely on the US as a defensive shield.

But he demonstrated repeatedly both during and after his time in office that he either doesn’t understand how NATO works or is unwilling to speak accurately about it.

In 2006, Nato countries made a vague commitment — formalized in 2014 — to spend two percent of their gross domestic product on their own defense, but members do not pay subscription fees and do not “owe” the alliance money for defense.

Speaking at a campaign rally in South Carolina on Saturday, Trump had described what he said was a conversation with a fellow head of state at an unspecified Nato meeting.

“One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?’ I said, ‘You didn’t pay, you’re delinquent? No, I would not protect you,’” Trump told his supporters.

President Joe Biden slammed the comments as “appalling and dangerous,” warning that his predecessor, who is running for reelection, intended to give Russian leader Vladimir Putin “a greenlight for more war and violence.”

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2024

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