White House criticises Trump’s ‘unhinged’ comments on Nato

Russia could do ‘whatever the hell they want’ to countries not meeting their Nato commitments, said Trump

Donald Trump has indicated that under his presidency, the United States would stand aside and “encourage” Russia to attack Nato allies who had fallen short of their financial obligations. The remarks, made during Saturday’s rally at Conway, South Carolina, are a return to the grievances he harboured about the financial burden of Nato during his time in office. His words triggered alarm among political opponents and the White House.

“Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged, and it endangers American national security, global stability and our economy at home,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in response.

“Rather than calling for wars and promoting deranged chaos, President Biden will continue to bolster American leadership and stand up for our national security interests – not against them,” Bates said.

Trump was referring to a past instruction rather than a future promise and told the crowd about his response to another head of state who asked the question about protection during a Nato meeting that took place during Trump’s term in office.


“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?’” Trump said, adding “I said, ‘You didn’t pay, you’re delinquent?’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”

Responding to Trump’s comments, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said that “any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk.” He said he expected that regardless of who wins the US presidential election “the US will remain a strong and committed Nato ally.”

European Council president Charles Michel wrote on X that “reckless statements” about Nato’s security only served the interests of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Since 2014, Nato countries have been in an agreement to commit 2 per cent of their GDP on defence by this year. As of 2022, only seven of the current Nato membership of 31 had met that obligation. During his 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly warned that the US might abandon its treaty commitments and only come to the aid of those nations that he considered to be fully paid up.

The comments will further destabilise the political harmony when it comes to continued American aid to Ukraine, with a bipartisan bill in the Senate enduring a crushing defeat during the week and a pathway to push through $60 billion (€55.7 billion) in aid uncertain despite a vote on Friday in the Senate to advance the proposed legislation, with further talks over the weekend.

The comments are being interpreted as a boost to Vladimir Putin, who gave a widely aired interview to the journalist Tucker Carlson, in which he expounded on his world view for two hours. Trump’s latest comments will alarm Nato officials. Stoltenberg recently said in a German newspaper interview that if Putin is victorious in its invasion of Ukraine, “there is no guarantee that Russian aggression will not spread to other countries”.

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times