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Trump appears to change his tone on Nato after uproar over Russia comments

Donald Trump appeared to change his tone on Nato after the uproar over his previous comments saying that he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to members who don’t pay their fair share.

Speaking to former Brexit leader Nigel Farage on GB News, Mr Trump said the US would “100 per cent” back Nato members who pay up.

But he also asked, “Why should we guard these countries that have a lot of money?”

“Now they're paying because of those comments that you saw two or three weeks ago,” he told Mr Farage. “I don't know if you know, but a lot of money’s come in since those comments were made. Nato was not paying.”

Nato members have agreed to spend at least two per cent of GDP on their own defence, a goal most members have yet to achieve.

“I went to the first meeting early in my administration, and I saw what was going on and I said ‘You're gonna have to pay your bills, everybody,’” Mr Trump told GB News.

“The second meeting, I hit them hard. And the question was asked by the head of a major country in front of everyone else, 28 countries at the time, including us, they said, ‘so if we don’t pay our bills, are you going to protect us from Russia?’” Mr Trump claimed.

“I said, ‘You mean you're delinquent? You're not paying the bills? ... We're not going to defend you if you're not paying your bills. We're not going to defend you. It's very simple,’” he added. “And hundreds of billions of dollars came flowing in – now if I say ‘yes, I am’. They're not going to pay their bills.”

Mr Trump referred to it as a “negotiation tactic” in the interview. “Nato became strong because of me,” he claimed.

“Nato has to treat the US fairly because if it's not for the United States, Nato literally doesn't even exist. But they took advantage of us like most countries do,” Mr Trump said.

Mr Farage, who campaigned for years to bring the UK out of the EU, argued that Mr Trump’s previous comments inviting Russia to attack Europe are “being used in Brussels as ‘we've got to have a European Defence Force’”.

He added that there’s “even talk of Brussels having a nuclear weapon. Let's just try and get somewhere on this. If they start to pay their bills properly, and the club is fair, are places like Poland defended? Will America be there?”

“Yeah. But the United States should pay its fair share, not everybody else's fair share,” Mr Trump said.

“I believe the United States was paying 90 per cent of Nato ... could be 100 per cent – it was the most unfair thing and don't forget, it's more important to them than it is to us. We have an ocean in between some problems,” the former president said in a false claim regarding how Nato is funded.

“If they start to play fair – America is there?” Mr Farage pressed.

“Yes. 100 per cent,” Mr Trump said.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949, a few years after the end of World War II. It began with 12 members and has now expanded to 32.

One of the most well-known parts of the Nato treaty is Article 5, which handles collective defence, stating that an attack on one is an attack on all. It requires that each member state agree to trigger it when a member state is attacked. Article 5 has only been triggered once – after the 9/11 terror attacks against the US.

Nato allies choose to contribute troops and funding for the alliance, while how much each member spends on its own defence is voluntary.

In 2014, Nato members committed to spend at least two per cent of their GDP on defence following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and conflicts in the Middle East. That agreement was renewed last year.

These funds aren’t paid directly to Nato but are goals for each country to spend on its own defence. Nato doesn’t have its own army – the member countries make sure the alliance is protected.

Last year, 11 of 31 member states – Sweden joined this year – reached the two per cent goal. Only three countries reached that threshold almost ten years previously, ABC News noted.

Nato General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, has said that all European members are set to meet the two per cent goal for the first time this year.

In the list of estimated defence spending for 2023, the US comes in second behind Poland, which spent 3.9 per cent – more than $29bn – of GDP on defence while the US spent 3.49 per cent – about $860bn.

Only one other country, Greece, spent more than three per cent. The Mediterranian nation spent 3.01 per cent, or about $7bn.

Regarding Ukraine, Mr Farage asked Mr Trump if Russian President Vladimir Putin is someone that can be negotiated with.

“Yeah, I think he is,” Mr Trump said.

“Putin responds to strength,” Mr Farage noted.

“I don't know what he responds to. He responded to me. I can tell you one thing – He certainly wouldn't have gotten into Ukraine” if Mr Trump had still been president, he claimed.