Republicans Starkly Split Over Trump’s NATO Remarks

Former President Donald Trump made some controversial remarks recently about the U.S. pulling out of NATO, and many Republicans are split over how they feel about it.

One leading GOP senator, though, said Trump was “simply ringing the warning bell.”

Trump caused alarm across the globe when he declared that he’d encourage Russia to attack any member of NATO that didn’t pay enough to maintain their spot in the alliance.

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who is a former soldier himself, took Trump’s side on the matter. In speaking with The New York Times this week, he said:

“NATO countries that don’t spend enough on defense, like Germany, are already encouraging Russian aggression, and President Trump is simply ringing the warning bell. Strength, not weakness, deters aggression. Russia invaded Ukraine twice under Barack Obama and Joe Biden, but not under Donald Trump.”

Russia initiated their all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, about one year after Biden took office. The country also annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, when Obama was in the White House and Biden was his vice president.

All of this controversy began when Trump was speaking at a South Carolina rally over the weekend. He was telling a story that he often tells, and said:

“One of the presidents 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?’ He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’

“No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want. You’ve got to pay.. You’ve got to pay your bills. And the money came flowing in.”

Biden responded angrily to those comments, with the White House saying the comments were “appalling and unhinged.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina was naturally asked to chime in on the matter. He told The Times:

“Give me a break — I mean, it’s Trump. … All I can say is while Trump was president, nobody invaded anybody. I think the point here is to, in his way, to get people to pay.”

Not every senator is behind Trump’s viewpoints, though. In 2016, Florida Senator Marco Rubio co-sponsored a bill that prevents presidents from withdrawing from NATO unilaterally.

Over the weekend, he dismissed the remarks Trump made about the treachery organization. In speaking with CNN, Rubio said:

“Donald Trump is not a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He doesn’t talk like a traditional politician, and we’ve already been through this. You would think people would’ve figured it out by now.”

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and one-time presidential candidate, continued his barrage of criticism of Trump, saying that the comments were “absolutely inappropriate” as well as “consistent with his love for dictators.”

The comments and the controversy surrounding it come at a vital time for NATO, which is hoping to not be dragged into the war with Russia while also expanding to add new members.