Sign up for the daily Inside Washington email for exclusive US coverage and analysis sent to your inbox
Get our free Inside Washington email
Mitt Romney has told The Independent that former President Donald Trump’s comments about how he would urge Russia to attack Nato countries who don’t spend enough on defence makes US allies wonder if they can “rely on America”.
Mr Romney’s comments come after Mr Trump’s rally in Conway, South Carolina on Sunday, where he said: “If we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?” Mr Trump said, claiming to remember a Nato member state leader asking him during his presidency. He then claimed to have responded: “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”
Mr Romney, now a Utah Senator after being the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and serving as the governor of Massachusetts, told The Independent on Monday: “He says outrageous things to get people riled up. It works at the rallies. Unfortunately, it also has an impact around the world where our friends wonder whether they can rely on America.”
This comes after reports regarding Mr Trump telling top European Union officials that the US would never help Europe if it was attacked.
Thierry Breton, a French EU commissioner, said during a roundtable discussion in Brussels early last month that Mr Trump made the comments in January 2020 when speaking to the president of the commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, a former German defence minister.
“You need to understand that if Europe is under attack, we will never come to help you and to support you,” Mr Trump said, according to Mr Breton. “By the way, NATO is dead, and we will leave, we will quit NATO.”
“And by the way, you owe me $400bn, because you didn’t pay, you Germans, what you had to pay for defence,” Mr Trump added at the time, Mr Breton said.
“Out of principle the President NEVER discloses what her interlocutors have told her during closed-door meetings. So we are not going to comment either way,” a spokesperson for Ms von der Leyen told Reuters.
“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,” the Biden campaign told the news agency.
Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas dismissed critiques of Mr Trump’s rhetoric.
“What I know is he’ll secure the border, he’s going to make this country safer, he’s going to hold Nato accountable,” he told The Independent. “And I think that people need to realize that like, you should take everything that he says seriously, but not literally.”
Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a staunch supporter of Mr Trump who led the charge to object to the 2020 presidential election results, said Mr Trump was correct in saying that Nato countries did not pay their fair share, but added that the United States would live up to its commitments.
“Seriously, they need to do more, but obviously we don’t want Russia to invade,” he told The Independent. “If they invaded a Nato country, we’d have to defend them, so we don’t want that.”