Nikki Haley blasts Donald Trump’s threat to dump NATO allies behind on bills

Nikki Haley, who is the top rival to Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential nominee race, wears a white outfit as she speaks into a microphone attached to a podium

Nikki Haley has condemned fellow presidential hopeful Donald Trump for taking the “side of a thug who kills his opponents”, after the former president suggested that the US shouldn’t protect some NATO members from any future attack by Russia. 

In what would be a monumental abandonment of a decades-long US core commitment, Trump said during a campaign event on Saturday (10 February) that he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to any NATO country that doesn’t meet their defence spending targets.

During an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, Haley, Trump’s sole remaining rival in the race for the Republican nomination, slammed the former president’s stance. “What bothers me about this is: don’t take the side of a thug who kills his opponents,” she said. 

“Don’t take the side of someone who has invaded a country, half a million people have died or been wounded because of Putin. Don’t take the side of someone who continues to lie.”

Haley, who served as a United Nations ambassador under Trump, would adhere to the NATO premise that an attack on one allied nation is an attack on all. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has been a success story for the past 75 years, she added.

America wants “NATO allies to pull their weight”, she went on to say, but it shouldn’t get to the point where a president would be “sitting there and telling Russia: ‘Have your way with these countries’.”

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At a rally in South Carolina over the weekend, Trump said he had made his comments during a previous meeting of NATO leaders. 

He claimed that a leader of a “big country” posed a hypothetical question in which his country came under attack from Russia at a time when they weren’t meeting their financial obligations within NATO. 

The leader reportedly asked if the US would come to his country’s aid in that scenario.

Trump said he replied: “You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?… No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.” 

Trump’s remarks prompted criticism from the White House, Western officials and Republicans

Donald Trump stands before supporters at a 2024 Republican presidential nominee campaign rally in South Carolina where he said he would abandon NATO allies who don't pay their bills and were under threat from Russia
Donald Trump’s threat to abandon NATO allies was met with scorn from Joe Biden and NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg. (Getty)

President Joe Biden said Trump is “making it clear that he will abandon our NATO allies” and claimed his predecessor “intends to give Putin a green light for more war and violence”. 

He believed Trump’s “admission” would allow Russia to continue its “brutal assault against a free Ukraine” before expanding this “aggression to the people of Poland and the Baltic States [which is] appalling and dangerous”. 

Meanwhile, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warned: “Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk.” 

Chris Christie, a former Republican presidential candidate, told NBC’s Meet the Press that the former president’s remarks were proof that Trump is “unfit to be president of the United States”. He went on to brand the comments “absolutely inappropriate” but “consistent with his love for dictators”.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, told Reuters that he disagreed “with the way [Trump] said it”, but added: “Russia didn’t invade anybody when he was president and if he’s president again, they won’t.”

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