Former President Donald Trump said NATO countries spent “billions and billions” of dollars on their collective defense after he threatened to not protect Europe if it were attacked.
Speaking at a New Hampshire rally Friday night, Trump blasted European countries for relying too heavily on Washington when it comes to defense spending. After meeting with NATO leaders during his presidency, Trump said he realized the United States was “footing the bill.”
When he raised that concern, a European leader asked him, “Does that mean if we’re not paid up, you’re not going to protect us?” Trump said.
“I said that’s exactly what it means,” he said. “And the following day, billions and billions of dollars came pouring in.”
A POLITICO report earlier this month revealed that Trump had told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in 2020 that the U.S. wouldn’t come to Europe’s defense if it was attacked.
Trump’s campaign had not responded to previous requests for comment on the meeting. It is unclear if Trump was referring at his Friday rally to the specific conversation with von der Leyen.
After publication of Trump’s previous comments, President Joe Biden’s campaign assailed Trump.
“The idea that he would abandon our allies if he doesn’t get his way underscores what we already know to be true about Donald Trump: The only person he cares about is himself,” Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
French European Commissioner Thierry Breton, who recounted the von der Leyen meeting, called his threat “a big wake-up call.”
“Now more than ever, we know that we are on our own, of course. We are a member of NATO, almost all of us, of course we have allies, but we have no other options but to increase drastically this pillar in order to be ready [for] whatever happens,” she said at an event in the European Parliament in Brussels earlier this month.