Sanders protests US paying 75% of NATO spending, Clinton argues it helps deter 'Russian aggression'
Sanders, 74 and Hillary Clinton, 68, held their ninth presidential debate in Brooklyn, and the US senator from Vermont asked to react to a statement he made in 1997 when he said that the US should stop “wasting tens of billions of dollars helping to defend Europe.”
“If my memory is correct here, we spend about 75 percent of the entire cost of the military aspect of NATO,” Sanders said. “Given the fact that France has a very good health care system and free public education, college education for their people, the UK has a good National Health Service and they also provide fairly reasonable higher education, you know what, yeah, I do believe that the countries of Europe should pick up more of the burden for their defense,” he stated, noting that “with a huge deficit, with 47 million people living in poverty, with our inner cities collapsing, yeah, I do think countries like Germany and UK and France and European countries whose economy, or at least its standard of living and health care and education, they’re doing pretty well.”
America's longest-serving independent politician in history added: “I would not be embarrassed as president of the United States to say to our European allies, you know what, the United States of America cannot just support your economies. You got to put up your own fair share of the defense burden.”
The issue of US covering much of NATO expenses has been a point of tension for decades.
Hillary Clinton said she fully supported what she described as America's “continuing involvement in NATO,” adding that “it is important to ask for our NATO allies to pay more of the cost,” however.
She invested all of her energy in praising NATO calling it “the most successful military alliance in probably human history."
Yet the former secretary of state said Europeans should be paying more. “But that doesn’t mean if they don’t we leave, because I don’t think that’s in America’s interests,” Clinton said.
When asked what she would do as commander-in-chief if the countries in the alliance refused to pay more, Clinton replied without hesitation: “I will stay in NATO.”
“Remember, NATO was with us in Afghanistan,” she added to support her stance. “Most of the member countries also lost soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. They came to our rallying defense after 9/11. That meant a lot. And, yes, we have to work out the financial aspects of it, but let’s not forget what’s really happening.”
This lead into Clinton's utterance on the reasons of NATO’s existence – to counter the “greatest threat” coming from Moscow.
“With Russia being more aggressive, making all kinds of intimidating moves toward the Baltic countries, we’ve seen what they’ve done in eastern Ukraine, we know how they want to rewrite the map of Europe, it is not in our interests. Think of how much it would cost if Russia’s aggression were not deterred because NATO was there on the front lines making it clear they could not move forward,” she added.
Last week, Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, Aleksander Grushko, told RT in an exclusive interview that NATO’s expansion in eastern Europe violates its previous obligations not to place significant combat forces on Russia’s borders. He added that he believes the recent anti-Russian rhetoric was intended to “breathe new life into NATO,” as the bloc continues to fall short in responding to modern security challenges and “combat threats such as terrorism, migration, and many others.”
Following the crisis in Ukraine, NATO dramatically increased the number and pace of its large-scale military drills across Europe, most intensively near Russia’s borders in 2015. Additionally, to boost what it called its “deterrence” of Russia, NATO has moved a remarkable amount of heavy weaponry, including tanks and self-propelled artillery, to the Baltic states on a “rotational” basis.