NATO has criticised comments made by Donald Trump at a campaign event – claiming they “put American and European soldiers at increased risk”.
The former US president had said he would let Russia “do whatever the hell they want” to members of the alliance that don’t pay enough for defence.
At a rally in South Carolina on Saturday, Mr Trump recalled an exchange with a “big country” who asked if they would be protected if Russia attacked them.
“I said: ‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”
In response, NATO said: “NATO remains ready and able to defend all allies. Any attack on NATO will be met with a united and forceful response.
“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.
“I expect that regardless of who wins the presidential election the US will remain a strong and committed NATO ally.”
Mr Trump’s comments will likely increase anxiety in Europe about continued US military support of Ukraine should he be re-elected this year.
He has repeatedly suggested he would withdraw US military resources from Ukraine if he returns to the White House.
The former president has also long criticised NATO, threatening to pull the US from the alliance.