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NATO chief says Trump’s comments ‘put American and European soldiers at increased risk’

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The head of NATO has warned that Donald Trump is putting the lives of US troops and their allies at risk by saying Russia should do “whatever the hell they want” to members of the military alliance who don’t spend enough on defence.

Mr Trump is the Republican front-runner in the 2024 US presidential election.

“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,” NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“Any attack on NATO will be met with a united and forceful response.”

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Speaking at a rally in South Carolina on Saturday, Mr Trump recalled how he previously told an unidentified NATO member that he would “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes in cases of NATO allies who are “delinquent”.

“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?'” Mr Trump recounted saying.

“‘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.”

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates responded, calling Mr Trump’s latest comments “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,” he said.

US President Joe Biden also commented in a statement.

“If my opponent, Donald Trump, is able to regain power, he is making it clear as day that he will abandon our NATO allies if Russia attacks,” he said.

“[His] 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 are appalling and dangerous.”

European officials criticise Trump’s comments

EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton was asked in an LCI television interview about Mr Trump’s remarks on Saturday.

“We cannot flip a coin about our security every four years depending on this or that election, namely the US presidential election,” he said, adding EU leaders understood the bloc needed to boost its military spending and capacities.

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