Former US President Donald Trump has stirred controversy with a startling statement

suggesting he would encourage Russia to attack NATO countries over the weekend. Strong condemnation followed his remarks, including from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, marking Trump's most extreme comment on the US-led defense pact.

So, what prompted this? Quoting his latest statement on Tuesday (2/13/2024), Trump reiterated that his speech aimed to push NATO countries to fulfill their financial obligations within the alliance. He has long voiced grievances against NATO, accusing Western allies of being "freeloaders" reluctant to shoulder their military expenditures and overly reliant on the US as a defense shield.

"I MADE NATO STRONG," Trump declared on his Truth Social account Monday, in all capital letters.

"When I told 20 countries not paying their fair share that they must PAY UP, or not get military protection from the United States, the money has flowed in," he added.

"After years... it is a beautiful sight to see," he reiterated.

It is known that in 2006, NATO countries made a commitment - formalized in 2014 - to spend 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on their own defense. However, members did not pay subscription fees and did not "owe" the alliance for defense funding.

This 2% benchmark is voluntary. Moreover, there are no penalties enshrined in NATO's founding treaty for failing to meet it.

Earlier on Saturday, during a US presidential campaign rally, Trump described his conversations with fellow NATO heads of state during his tenure. Though not specific, he alluded to how member states were reluctant to pay for the alliance.

"One of the presidents of a major country stands up and says, 'Sir, if we don’t pay, and we get attacked by Russia, would you come to protect us?' I said, 'You didn’t pay, you defaulted? No, I’m sorry, I’m not gonna protect you,'" Trump told his supporters.

"In fact, I’ll be urging them to do whatever they want," he said, referring to Russia's potential attack.

US President Joe Biden himself condemned Trump's comments. He deemed them "terrible and dangerous."

He stated that Trump clearly gave Russian leader Vladimir Putin a "green light for more war and violence." Trump's statement came after Republican senators last week rejected a bipartisan bill that included $60 billion in funding for Ukraine, plus aid for its ally Israel, as well as reforms to address the US-Mexico border crisis.

Putin's Reaction

Meanwhile, the Kremlin declined to comment on Trump's statement about not wanting to protect NATO countries from future Moscow attacks if they are late in paying.

"I am still President Putin's press secretary, but not Trump's secretary," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Reuters.

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