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'NATO is dead': Trump told EU that US would never help Europe under attack, says official

According to European Commissioner Thierry Breton, Trump promised to quit the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) during the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2020. Trump repeatedly clashed with traditional allies over trade and defense spending during his presidency.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: January 11, 2024 14:34 IST
United states, Donald Trump, US elections
Image Source : AP/FILE Former US President Donald Trump

Former US President Donald Trump told top European Union officials during his tenure at the White House that the United States would never help Europe if it came under attack, according to a high-level EU official. Trump made the remarks to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the World Economic Forum in 2020, said Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Market.

Breton recalled the meeting in Davos, where he was also present, at a panel discussion in Brussels on Tuesday. His remarks sparked criticism of Trump on Wednesday from US President Joe Biden's campaign for re-election. "You need to understand that if Europe is under attack, we will never come to help you and to support you," Breton quoted Trump as saying during the meeting.

"By the way, NATO is dead, and we will leave, we will quit NATO," Trump also said during the meeting, said Breton. "And by the way, you owe me $400 billion, because you didn’t pay, you Germans, what you had to pay for defense," he further quoted the ex-US President at an event at the European Parliament. The European Parliament declined to comment on Breton's comments.

Trump's presidency

"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," said a spokesperson for Biden's election campaign after the remarks came to the fore. Trump is the Republican frontrunner in the 2024 elections, with opinion polls predicting a tight contest with Biden.

During his first term from 2017 to 2021, Trump repeatedly clashed with traditional allies over trade and defense spending. Trump himself has offered few clues about the foreign policy he would pursue were he to win in 2024 beyond broad claims like ending the Ukraine war in 24 hours, prompting concern in European capitals.

During a second term, he would likely install loyalists in key positions, allowing him more freedom to enact isolationist policies and whims, according to current and former aides and diplomats. Trump has also threatened to prosecute Biden if he is elected President, as "revenge" for several indictments against him, including one on alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential elections.

Will be a dictator for day one: Trump

During a televised town hall evenr in Iowa hosted by Fox News, Trump declined to rule out abuse of power if he returned to the White House, saying that he will be a "dictator" for day one. “Except for day one,” Trump said in response to when Fox News' Sean Hannity asked if he would never abuse power as retribution against anybody, the Guardian reported..

“He says, ‘You’re not going to be a dictator, are you?’ I said: ‘No, no, no, other than day one. We’re closing the border and we’re drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I’m not a dictator," he said at the event. Trump’s campaign rhetoric and sweeping plans for a second term that include firing large numbers of the federal bureaucracy and targeting his rivals have alarmed Democrats.

“Donald Trump has been telling us exactly what he will do if he’s reelected and tonight he said he will be a dictator on day one. Americans should believe him,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a statement. This comes after the US President deemed his predecessor as a threat to American democracy.

Biden noted that Trump has described himself as his supporters’ “retribution” and his use of the term “vermin”, famously employed by historical dictators including Adolf Hitler. “We’ve got to get it done, not because of me. ... If Trump wasn’t running I’m not sure I’d be running. We cannot let him win,” Biden earlier said.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | US: Trump mocks French President Macron, Biden at Iowa campaign event | WATCH

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