Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday defended former President Donald Trump over recent comments he made about not protecting NATO countries, saying that as president, Trump “didn’t pull us out of NATO.”
Rubio, R-Fla., disputed the characterization by CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump “wouldn’t defend NATO countries and actually he would invite [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Russia to invade them.”
“Well, that’s not what happened and that’s not how I viewed that statement,” Rubio responded. “I mean, he was talking about a story that he talked about happened in the past. … He doesn’t talk like a traditional politician.”
“What he’s basically saying is, if you see the comments, he said NATO was broke or busted until he took over because people weren’t paying their dues, and then he told the story about how he used leverage to get people to step up to the plate and become more active in NATO,” Rubio added.
Rubio said that “Trump was president and he didn’t pull us out of NATO,” noting that during the Trump administration, “American troops were stationed throughout Europe. As they are today, they were then as well.”
Meanwhile, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is running against Trump in the Republican presidential primary, blasted the former president for what he said.
“I’ve dealt with Russia every day. The last thing we ever want to do is side with Russia,” Haley told CBS News on Sunday morning.
“We do want NATO allies to pull their weight. But there are ways you can do that without sitting there and telling Russia have your way with these countries. That’s not what we want,” she added.
And former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a vociferous Trump opponent, on Sunday called Trump a “national security risk” in response to the former president’s NATO remarks.
“What poses a national security risk is the possibility that he could be president of the United States again,” Christie told NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“This is why I’ve been saying for a long time that he’s unfit to be president of the United States,” Christie said, citing Trump’s “love for dictators.”
He also reiterated that he will not vote for Trump in the general election “under any circumstances,” but he added, “I can’t see myself voting for President Biden, either.”
Trump on Saturday night told a crowd in South Carolina that he’d let Russia “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries that are delinquent on their payments to the group.
Trump also described a meeting with a leader of a country who was behind on its payments to NATO.
“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. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills,’” he said Saturday.
Trump has reportedly threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO over demands that member nations hit the target of spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. By comparison, President Joe Biden has reiterated the U.S. commitment to the alliance.