Trump again conditions US help to NATO allies on their paying ‘fair share’

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 3:08 PM

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reiterated that the United States would only help protect NATO members from a future attack by Russia if its European members spent more on defense.

In an interview with Britain’s right-leaning GB News that was released on Tuesday, Trump repeated remarks that triggered an uproar both at home and abroad last month. The former president told a campaign rally that he would encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to a NATO member if it wasn’t spending enough on defense.

Trump has frequently taken aim at the failure of many of NATO’s 32 members to meet a defense spending target of at least 2% of gross domestic product. The U.S. military forms the core of the alliance’s military power. NATO estimates have shown that only 11 members are spending at the target level.

After Trump’s February comments, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said he expected 18 allies to reach the spending target this year.

Defending his February comments, Trump said he did not care if his political opponents used them against him in the run-up to the Nov. 5 election, in which he will face Democratic President Joe Biden, a staunch supporter of NATO.

“I don’t care if they use it,” Trump said. “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?,” Trump told interviewer and Trump ally Nigel Farage.

Asked if the U.S. would defend NATO allies if they started to “pay their bills properly,” said, “Yes. But the United States should pay its fair share, not everybody else’s fair share.”

“So if they start to play fair, America’s there?” interviewer Nigel Farage asked.

“Yes. 100 percent,” Trump replied.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington)