Joe Biden sharply rebuked Donald Trump for saying he would encourage Russia to attack Nato allies that did not spend enough on defence, as the US president pleaded for Republicans in Congress to pass a $95bn funding bill including aid for Ukraine.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday after the Senate approved the national security legislation with bipartisan support, Biden issued his most strident criticism yet of comments made by Trump last Saturday at a rally in South Carolina.
“Just a few days ago, Trump gave an invitation to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to invade some of our allies, Nato allies,” Biden said. “No other president in our history has ever bowed down to a Russian dictator. Let me say this as clearly as I can: I never will.”
Biden added: “For God’s sake, it’s dumb, it’s shameful, it’s dangerous, it’s un-American.”
Trump’s comments last weekend have reverberated across the transatlantic alliance, triggering deep concern and outrage from officials across Europe. At the campaign event, Trump recalled telling Nato allies that he would not “protect” countries that were “delinquent” on their defence spending, and would encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to those that failed to “pay” up.
Biden and his campaign have also seized on Trump’s comments to highlight the extreme foreign policy positions of his likely rival in November’s presidential election.
“Our adversaries have long sought to create cracks in the alliance — the greatest hope of all those who wish America harm is for Nato to fall apart,” Biden said. “For as long as I’m president, if Putin attacks a Nato ally, the United States will defend every inch of Nato territory.”
Biden’s remarks came after the White House cheered the Senate’s passage of a spending bill including $61bn to support Ukraine in its defence against Russia’s occupying forces, along with security aid for Israel and Taiwan and humanitarian assistance for Gaza.
But the bill must now pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Mike Johnson, the chamber’s Speaker and a close Trump ally, has so far refused to call a vote on Ukraine aid, frustrating the Biden administration and allies of Kyiv in both parties on Capitol Hill.
Biden said the House should “immediately” pass the bill. “Stand for decency. Stand for democracy. Stand up to a so-called leader hell-bent on weakening American security. And I mean it sincerely: history is watching.”
Johnson is insisting on a crackdown on immigration by the Biden administration and Congress in exchange for any progress on Ukraine aid, even though Trump and many Republicans rejected a bipartisan deal on tougher border measures earlier this year. “National security begins with border security, we’ve said that all along,” Johnson told reporters on Tuesday.
But he is facing more pressure to call a vote on Ukraine aid following the Senate’s vote. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy weighed in with a short statement by video on X on Tuesday, in which he referred to the “next step” of a vote in the US House.
“We anticipate an equally strong moral choice and a decision that will work for the benefit of our shared security,” Zelenskyy said.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, also chimed in. “We’ve heard all kinds of rumours about whether the House supports Ukraine or doesn’t. It seems to me that the easy way to solve that would be to vote,” he told Politico.
Biden’s comments on Tuesday came after the Financial Times reported that Nato would announce that 18 of its 31 members will meet defence spending targets this year. Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary-general, has pushed back strongly against Trump’s comments on Saturday night.