Backlash against Trump willingness to 'encourage' Russia to attack NATO allies

Western officials have condemned former US President Donald Trump for having suggested while he was in office that he "would encourage" Russia to attack Washington's NATO allies unless they commit their fair shares of defense expenditures.

Trump spoke during a political rally in South Carolina on Saturday. He is seeking the Republican nomination in his bid to secure a second term as US president in the November election.

Trump, when he was president, aired discontent by claiming that many NATO countries were relying on the US for their defense.

Trump used Saturday's gathering to accuse incumbent US President Joe Biden of earmarking more money for foreign countries than for the domestic policy agenda.

Trump also appeared to recount what happened during his meeting with NATO leaders when he was in office.

Trump said to the effect that the president of "a big country" asked him whether the US would offer protection if Russia attacked NATO countries that did not pay their fair shares of defense spending.

He said he answered that he would not protect such countries and "would encourage" Russians "to do whatever the hell they want."

The White House issued a statement right after Trump's comments. It says, "Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, "Any attack on NATO will be met with a united and forceful response."