NATO leaders meet under intense Trump pressure on spending
Meeting fellow NATO leaders for the first time, U.S. President Donald Trump aggressively challenged them Thursday to spend more on their own defence, putting the alliance under exceptional pressure to become tougher, sharper and newly relevant.
The 27 other leaders looked on in awkward silence as Trump suggested most NATO countries were freeloaders not paying their share for military protection. The other leaders are divided over his spending demands, as well as over how much intelligence to share with Trump’s troubled administration. “Twenty-three of the 28 nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defence,” Trump said. “This is not fair to the people and the taxpayers of the United States.”
But the threat of Islamic extremism remained a uniting theme as the spectre of Monday’s Manchester concert bombing loomed over the summit at the alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels.
“That attack shows why it’s important for the international community and NATO to do more about the fight against terrorism,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said upon arrival.
NATO’s chief affirmed that the alliance would join the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group, but will not wage direct war against the extremists.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that joining the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition “will send a strong political message of NATO’s commitment to the fight against terrorism and also improve our co-ordination within the coalition.”
But he underlined that “it does not mean that NATO will engage in combat operations.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said NATO leaders would confirm a decision from 2014 increasing the amount member countries are expected to spend on defence to 2 per cent of their gross domestic product by 2024.
Leaders also will agree to submit annual action plans laying out how they plan to meet NATO’s spending goal. The plans would also describe what kind of military equipment they intend to invest in, and how much they are contributing to NATO operations.
But in remarks that humiliated other leaders, Trump said that “NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.” He added, “Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years.”