A top Republican senator says Donald Trump was only sounding the alarm when he sparked global concern by saying he would encourage Russia to attack NATO allies that have not paid enough to maintain the alliance, as Trump's party closed ranks behind its presumptive presidential nominee.
NATO countries that don't spend enough on defense, like Germany, are already encouraging Russian aggression and President Trump is only sounding the alarm, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a former soldier.
Strength, not weakness, deters aggression. Russia invaded Ukraine twice under Barack Obama and Joe Biden, but not under Donald Trump.
Cotton was referring to the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
As president between 2017 and 2021, Trump was widely seen as having shown alarming favor, and arguably servility, toward Vladimir Putin.
Trump made the controversial remarks at a rally in South Carolina on Saturday.
In remarks that the Times said were not part of Trump's planned speech but which repeated a story he has often told, the former president said: One of the presidents of a great country s stood up and said, “Well, sir, if we don't pay and were attacked by Russia, will you protect us?”
I said: You didn't pay, are you a delinquent? He said: Yes, let's say it happened. No, I won't protect you. In fact, I would encourage them [Russia] do what they want. You must pay. You have to pay your bills. And the money poured in.
Amid heated controversy over remarks that the Biden White House called appalling and unbalanced, another Republican hawk in the Senate, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told the Times: Give me a break, I mean, it's Trump.
Graham, who was reluctant to warn that Trump would destroy the Republican Party with wholehearted support, added: All I can say is that when Trump was president, no one invaded anyone. I think the goal here is, in its own way, to make people pay.
Last year, Marco Rubio co-sponsored legislation preventing presidents from unilaterally withdrawing from NATO. On Sunday, the Florida senator, whom Trump ridiculed and defeated in the 2016 primaries, also dismissed Trump's remarks on Russia.
Donald Trump is not a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rubio told CNN, referring to a Washington think tank. He doesn't talk like a traditional politician, and we've been through that before. You'd think people would have figured that out by now.
Among other Senate Republicans, there was a rather muted reaction. Thom Tillis of North Carolina reportedly criticized Trump aides for not explaining to him how NATO works, while Rand Paul of Kentucky was quoted by Politico as saying that Trump's remarks represented a stupid thing to say.
Trump's latest rival for the presidential nomination, which he is almost certain to secure, is Nikki Haley, who served as United Nations ambassador under Trump. Asked about her remarks, Haley told CBS: NATO has been a success story for 75 years. But what bothers me is not taking the side of a thug [Vladimir Putin], who kills his opponents. Don't take the side of someone who entered and invaded a country [Ukraine] and half a million people have died or been injured because of Putin.
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Today, we want NATO allies to do their part. But there are ways to do this without sitting around telling Russia to do whatever it wants with these countries. This is not what we want.
A former candidate for the nomination, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, told NBC that the NATO remark was completely inappropriate and consistent with his love of dictators.
Former Trump aides were more skeptical.
John Bolton, Trump's third national security adviser, told MSNBC: When he says he wants to leave NATO, I think that's a very real threat, and it will have dramatically negative implications for the United States, not only in the North Atlantic but also in the North Atlantic. global.
HR McMaster, Bolton's predecessor who was a serving Army general when Trump chose him, said Trump's comment on NATO was irresponsible.
But another former general and former Trump adviser, Keith Kellogg, told the Times that he believed Trump was right with his remarks, which Kellogg said were aimed at prodding member countries to strengthen their own defenses.
I don't think it's an encouragement at all, Kellogg said of Trump's apparent message to Russia. We know what he means when he says it.
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