In a recent campaign trail speech, Donald Trump — the continued front-runner for this year’s presidential nomination from the GOP — suggested some circumstances would warrant Russian military forces getting essentially free rein.
“The president 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?’ 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,'” Trump remarked. He was discussing alleged developments from his time in office. Trump has routinely taken NATO member countries ostensibly falling short of a long-term agreement’s individual spending goals to an extreme.
In an interview this weekend on CNN, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee — defended Trump’s commentary. Rubio’s excuse appeared to be the idea that Trump wasn’t being literal.
“Well, that’s not what happened, and that’s not how I view that statement,” Rubio said to concerns from host Jake Tapper. “I mean, he was talking about something — a story, that he talked about happened in the past. By the way, Donald Trump was president, and he didn’t pull us out of NATO. […] Donald Trump is not a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He doesn’t talk like a traditional politician.”
Suggesting he would encourage Russia to launch devastating military incursions against U.S. allies in Europe under certain circumstances is arguably a bit more than just diverging from the traditional oratory of a politician. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operates on an agreement for mutual defense in the event a member is attacked.
Republicans were already facing outrage for recently tanking a legislative deal in the Senate that would have set up additional security assistance for Ukraine (which isn’t a NATO member) in defending itself against the ongoing Russian invasion. “Dear Republican Senators of America. Ronald Reagan, who helped millions of us to win back our freedom and independence, must be turning in his grave today. Shame on you,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said.