Donald Trump bragged during a campaign speech about threatening to abandon U.S. allies, even if Russia attacked one of them.
Trump appeared in Sioux City, Iowa, on Sunday. During his speech, he made a series of bizarre comments, including mistaking the city for Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and pronouncing Canada as “Canya.”
But he notably also said he had threatened to withhold U.S. military aid from NATO members unless they paid the bloc more. He said, at one point, he told member state leaders, “We’re not going to protect you any longer.”
“The head of a country stood up, said, ‘Does that mean if Russia attacks my country, you will not be there?’ That’s right, that’s what it means,” Trump said to applause. “I will not protect you.”
“And the money came!”
Trump’s refusal to step in even in the case of a Russian attack is notable considering how much he loves Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin. Trump and Putin enjoy a particularly cozy relationship, and Trump has repeatedly praised the Russian president.
Given the fact that Republican support for the war in Ukraine is on the wane, Putin must be overjoyed that the party’s presidential front-runner is actively advocating letting Russia attack whichever countries it wants.
Trump falsely claimed throughout his presidency that the other NATO members had failed to make sufficient contributions to the alliance. In 2018, he accused other countries of owing the U.S. “a tremendous amount of money from many years back, where they’re delinquent as far as I’m concerned.”
He also threatened to withdraw the U.S. from NATO over the other countries’ supposed unpaid dues. But in reality, the U.S. has never been shortchanged by NATO allies.
“There is no ledger that maintains accounts of what countries pay and owe,” Aaron O’Connell, a former Obama administration National Security Council staffer, told NPR in 2018. “NATO is not like a club with annual membership fees.”
That fact hasn’t stopped Trump from resurrecting his NATO falsehoods during his current campaign. Trump also bragged about his threat to abandon NATO allies to Russian attacks during an early October campaign stop in Waterloo, Iowa.