European leaders have decried Donald Trump’s suggestion the US would not protect NATO members failing to meet the alliance’s spending target.
The former US president and current Republican frontrunner suggested in a South Carolina rally he would “encourage” Russia to attack any NATO country that does not contribute 2% of its GDP to the alliance’s coffers.
He claimed the president of an unnamed “big country” in Europe had asked him: “If we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?”
Trump said his response was: “No I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them (Russia) to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.”
Speaking in Brussels on Monday morning, the EU’s foreign policy and defence chief Josep Borrell said: “Let’s be serious. NATO cannot be an ‘à la carte’ military alliance. (It) cannot be a military alliance that works depending on the humour of the President of the US on those days.”
“I’m not going to spend my time commenting on any silly idea that comes during this campaign in the US,” he added.
Trump’s inflammatory comments were also censured by Charles Michel, president of the European Council. “Reckless statements on NATO’s security and Art 5 solidarity serve only Putin’s interest,” Michel said on social media platform X.
Article 5 requires each of the military alliance’s 31 countries to come to the aid of any member who becomes a victim of an armed attack. It has been invoked only once in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US.
“They do not bring more security or peace to the world,” Michel went on. “On the contrary, they reemphasise the need for the EU to urgently further develop its strategic autonomy and invest in its defence. And to keep our Alliance strong.”
The European Commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, told French TV channel LCI that Trump’s comments showed that American democracy was “sick.”
“We cannot gamble our security every 4 years,” Breton said, referring to the US presidential elections.
He also claimed Trump’s comments related to a conversation he had with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen whilst he was in office in 2020. Trump reportedly told her the US would not help Europe if it was attacked.
“You need to understand that if Europe is under attack we will never come to help you and to support you,” Trump said during the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, according to Breton, adding that “by the way, NATO is dead.”
The foreign ministry of Germany – one of NATO’s biggest spenders whose expenditure nonetheless does not reach the target of 2% of GDP – said that “this NATO creed keeps more than 950 million people safe – from Anchorage to Erzurum.”
Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, who sits on the parliament’s delegation for relations with the United States, also took to X to call on the EU to “coordinate and integrate defence efforts from procurement to deployment,” to reduce reliance on Washington.
Officials in Brussels are increasingly nervous that a Trump comeback could severely disrupt the West’s tightly aligned policy on Ukraine and erode NATO’s influence.
The bloc is looking to scale up its defence industry and military capabilities in a bid to boost its so-called “strategic autonomy.”
Fears that Trump could re-impose punitive trade tariffs on EU products entering the US are also raising the alarm. Trump has vowed that if elected he will raise a 10% tax on all foreign imports, and even higher levies on China-made goods.
A spokesperson of the European Commission said on Monday that the executive is “setting up a structured internal process to prepare for all possible outcomes of the US presidential elections,” but no further details were provided.
Get Best News and Web Services here