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US senator to NATO members: ‘If you don’t pay, you get kicked out’

US Senator Lindsey Graham speaks at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (By AP)

US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has said countries that do not meet NATO’s spending criteria should be expelled from the bloc, echoing ex-President Donald Trump’s recent remarks.

Graham said he agrees with Trump, who says that all “NATO nations” should pay “their bills,” otherwise they will lose protection.

According to Graham, 19 of the 31 NATO nations do not follow the guidelines that require them to commit at least 2% of their GDP to defense spending.

“President Trump is right to want NATO nations to meet their obligation of 2 percent. We need to turn it into an obligation that means something,” the lawmaker said.

Graham added that he wants “a system where, if you don’t pay, you get kicked out.”

“I’m a big fan of NATO. But there’s $70 billion to $80 billion left on the table. If you’re in NATO, pay the 2 percent,” he told CBS News on Sunday.

Trump, who is likely to be the Republican nominee in this year’s US presidential election, said at a rally in South Carolina last week he would “encourage” Russia to attack any of the US’s NATO allies that he felt were not paying their fair share.

His comments drew a swift rebuke from US allies, NATO, and US leaders.

However, Graham’s latest remarks are in contrast to his earlier views on the matter.

When Trump said in 2016 that the US should only aid allies who have “fulfilled their obligations to us”, the South Carolina lawmaker responded, “Statements like these make the world more dangerous and the United States less safe.”

“I can only imagine how our allies in NATO, particularly the Baltic States must feel after reading these comments from Mr. Trump. I’m 100 percent certain how Russian President [Vladimir] Putin feels — he’s a very happy man,” Graham added.

Back then, Graham had urged Trump to “correct” his NATO statements.

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