Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. CQ Brown told NBC News in an interview Monday that “US credibility is at stake” after he was asked about comments from former President Donald Trump that he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO partners that don’t meet spending guidelines on defense.
At a rally in South Carolina over the weekend, Trump recalled a conversation while he was president with “one of the presidents of a big country,” who asked him whether the US would defend them from a Russian invasion even if they “don’t pay.”
“No, I would not protect you,” the 2024 Republican front-runner recalled saying. “In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”
Asked by Lester Holt about Trump’s admission that he would not abide by the collective-defense clause at the heart of NATO if reelected, Brown told the “Nightly News” anchor Monday that the alliance is strong and has been around for 75 years.
“I think we have a responsibility to uphold those alliances,” Brown said in an interview airing Monday evening. “US credibility is at stake with each of our alliances, and US leadership is still needed, wanted, and watched.”
“The US is committed,” Brown added. “And that’s the message I communicate, and that’s the message that’s been received.”
According to NBC, Brown said that he realizes there will be “various dialogue in discussions at the political level,” but that he will focus on “continuing to build and strengthen our relationship with NATO.”
“My job is to make sure that we are doing everything we can with our NATO allies on the military aspect,” he said, “and I’ll continue to do that throughout.”
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