Sen. Lindsey Graham unleashed a tweetstorm on Donald Trump over his suggestion that the US may not protect NATO members in the event of a Russian invasion.
In an interview with The New York Times published Wednesday night, the Republican nominee said that if elected, he may not come to the aid of NATO allies who have not fulfilled their obligation to devote 2% of their gross domestic product to military spending.
"Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes," Trump said of coming to the aid of NATO allies.
He added: "I'm not saying if not. I'm saying right now there are many countries that have not fulfilled their obligations to us."
One of the central principles of NATO, formed as a bulwark against the Soviet Union in 1949, stipulates that an attack on one of the 28 member states warrants a response from all.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Graham said that Trump's suggestion that NATO allies shouldn't be defended if they don't meet their quotas was a gift to Russia.
The GOP nominee for President is essentially telling Russians/other bad actors the US is not fully committed to supporting NATO alliance.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 21, 2016
#2 -- NATO has been the most successful organization in modern history to provide collective defense for democracies.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 21, 2016
Statements like these make the world more dangerous and the United States less safe. https://t.co/8hrywK6wEM— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 21, 2016
#4 -- I can only imagine how our allies in NATO, particularly the Baltic states, must feel after reading these comments from Mr. Trump.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 21, 2016
#5 -- . I’m 100 percent certain how Russian President Putin feels – he’s a very happy man.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 21, 2016
#6 -- Mr. Trump has shown the ability to correct statements such as this. I hope he will do so tonight when the world is watching.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 21, 2016
One of the more unabashed hawks remaining in the Senate, Graham has frequently spoken out against Trump's isolationist foreign policy proposals, saying they would endanger US national security.
Graham's criticism of Trump's NATO stance echoes presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's assertion earlier this year that Trump's election would "be like Christmas in the Kremlin."
Clinton's campaign skewered the Republican nominee over his comments on Thursday, saying that past NATO proponents like Republican President Ronald Reagan would be horrified by the idea of abandoning NATO allies.
"Ronald Reagan would be ashamed," Jake Sullivan, a Clinton senior policy adviser, said in a statement. "Harry Truman would be ashamed."
He added: "Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who help build NATO into the most successful military alliance in history would all come to the same conclusion: Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit and fundamentally ill-prepared to be our commander-in-chief."
While Trump's position makes him one of the only high-profile public NATO skeptics in American politics, his criticism of the treaty organization is shared by others across the foreign policy spectrum. In recent years, some member nations have failed to spend 2% of their GDP on defense, which has irked some members of the Obama administration.
In a statement, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pointed out that many NATO members have increased spending in recent years, likely the result of a resurgent Russian presence.
"Solidarity among allies is key for NATO," Stoltenberg said. "This is good for European security and good for US security. We defend one another."
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