Speaking at a rally in South Carolina on Saturday, the former US president said he remembered how as president he told an unidentified Nato member that he would “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes in cases of what he called “delinquent” Nato allies.
The Republican presidential frontrunner said Russia should be able to do “whatever the hell they want” to alliance members who don’t meet their defence spending targets.
“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’” Trump recounted saying at his Conway rally.
“‘No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.’”
The Nato secretary-general contradicted the comments from Mr Trump, who is seeking to return for a second term as US president, and said that all 31 allies of the Nato bloc were committed to defending each other.
“Nato remains ready and able to defend all allies. Any attack on Nato will be met with a united and forceful response,” he said.
He added Mr Trump’s remarks “put American and European soldiers at increased risk”.
“Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,” Mr Stoltenberg said on Sunday.
“Regardless of who wins the presidential election, the US will remain a strong and committed Nato ally,” he said.
Mr Trump said he had informed his allies he would “encourage” Russia to attack any Nato member not meeting the alliance’s agreed defence spending target of 2 per cent of their GDP.
At least 19 of 30 member nations in the Nato bloc are spending less than that, data from Nato showed in 2023.
These nations include Germany, Norway and France.
Mr Trump’s comments triggered a wave of concern in Poland, which is facing increased risk of attack from Russia. The central European nation has been under Russian control more often than not since the end of the 18th century.
Defence minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz warned that “no election campaign is an excuse for playing with the security of the alliance”.
While the German government did not officially comment, its foreign office published a statement on Sunday morning highlighting the principle of solidarity governing Nato.
“‘One for all and all for one.’ This Nato creed keeps more than 950 million people safe – from Anchorage to Erzurum,” the foreign ministry said on X, formerly Twitter.
Mr Trump’s remarks were also condemned by his successor Joe Biden, who said that his comments would embolden Vladimir Putin and that a second Trump administration could contribute to a widening conflict in Europe.
“Donald Trump’s admission that he intends to give Putin a green light for more war and violence, to continue his brutal assault against a free Ukraine, and to expand his aggression to the people of Poland and the Baltic states, [is] appalling and dangerous,” he said.
While in office, Mr Trump had already threatened not to come to the aid of any country under attack that he deemed not to be meeting its Nato commitments.