Speaking at a rally in South Carolina on Saturday, the Republican frontrunner recounted telling the president of an unidentified Nato member that he would “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes to members who failed to meet the trans-Atlantic alliance’s defence spending targets.
“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’ ... ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay,” Mr Trump recounted telling the Nato member.
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said Mr Trump’s remarks were “appalling and unhinged”.
“Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged – and it endangers American national security, global stability and our economy at home,” Mr Bates said.
The Nato treaty contains a provision guaranteeing mutual defence if any one of its member states are attacked.
Nato members also agreed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 that the alliance would halt previous expenditure cuts and move towards spending 2 per cent of their GDP on defence by 2024.
But Mr Trump was a fierce critic of Nato during his term as US president from 2016-2020, even threatening to pull out of the alliance on multiple occasions.
He also cut defence funding to the alliance, and complained that the US was paying more than its fair share.
When Joe Biden defeated Mr Trump in the 2020 elections and took office in 2021 as the next president, the Democrat restored US alliances and ensured that Nato was “the largest and most vital it has ever been,” Mr Bates said.
“Rather than calling for wars and promoting deranged chaos, President Biden will continue to bolster American leadership and stand up for our national security interests and not against them,” Mr Bates said.
The former president, however, continues to criticise Nato, telling a campaign rally last month that he believed the alliance would not support the US if it were attacked.
He also complained about the billions the US has spent so far on Russia’s war in Ukraine and called for the end of foreign aid.
“From this point forward ... no money in the form of foreign aid should be given to any country unless it is done as a loan, not just a giveaway,” Mr Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.