NATO lead­ers meet un­der in­tense Trump pres­sure on spend­ing

Cape Breton Post - - World -

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.”

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