Speaking to reporters during a trip to Scotland on Monday, the foreign secretary said: “I am a very strong supporter of Nato.
“It is what helps to keep us safe and that is so essential in this world where we have seen Putin’s terrible illegal invasion of Ukraine.
“And actually Nato this year has got stronger with Sweden and Finland joining.
“Of course we want all countries like us to spend 2% [of GDP] but I think what was said was not a sensible approach.”
According to Nato’s 2023 estimates, only just over a third of a members actually manage to spend 2% of their GDP on defence last year.
Trump, the favourite to be the Republican nominee for the upcoming presidential elections, claimed he once told a European Nato leader he would not “protect” their country if it was not spending 2% of its GDP on defence.
Speaking at a rally, Trump recalled allegedly saying, “I would encourage [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want,” to those behind on their spending commitments.
Unsurprisingly, Trump’s comments sparked a strong response from both sides of the Atlantic.
The UK’s security minister Tom Tugendhat told LBC on Monday that the US has made its commitments to Nato clear over “many, many years” after deploying millions of troops through the alliance.
But, he added: “We need to make absolutely certain that all Nato members are [meeting the target] because the reality is, I’m afraid, that Putin’s war against Ukraine could spread if we are not successful and we need to make sure that we’re all defended.”
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said that the 31 member states are still committed to Article 5, its mutual defence cause where each country has to defend any member who comes under attack.
He 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.”
Joe Biden’s White House also called the comments “appalling and unhinged” while EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “Nato cannot be an a la carte military alliance… depending on the humour of the president of the US.”
Political rivalry in the US is heating up at the moment ahead of the presidential election in November, where Biden and Trump are widely expected to compete for the White House.
Trump’s words have also heightened concerns that, if he were to get into office again, he could threaten Nato’s integrity. That would have real ripples for the rest of the alliance, especially as the US is one of the leading members.