Trump calls for NATO to help pay for IS fight


BRUS­SELS — Meet­ing fel­low NATO lead­ers for the first time, 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.” All 28 NATO al­lies are in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of the 68-na­tion anti-IS coali­tion.

Yet NATO lead­ers are keen to show that the al­liance born in the Cold War is re­spond­ing to to­day’s se­cu­rity threats. Trump has ques­tioned its rel­e­vance and pushed mem­bers to do more to de­fend them­selves.

As part of its ef­forts to re­spond to Trump’s de­mand to do more to fight ter­ror­ism, NATO will also set up a coun­tert­er­ror­ism in­tel­li­gence cell to im­prove in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing.

The lead­ers also en­dorsed the ap­point­ment of an anti-ter­ror co-or­di­na­tor to over­see their ef­forts, and de­cided to in­crease the num­ber of flight hours of a sur­veil­lance plane watch­ing the skies over north­ern Iraq and Syria.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel said that NATO lead­ers would con­firm a de­ci­sion from 2014 in­creas­ing the amount mem­ber coun­tries are ex­pected to spend on de­fence to two per cent of their gross do­mes­tic prod­uct by 2024.

Merkel told re­porters she is pleased that NATO spend­ing plans will also take into ac­count mil­i­tary equip­ment and con­tri­bu­tions to al­liance 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.”

Mean­while, a grow­ing dis­pute be­tween the U.S. and Bri­tain over in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing clouded the NATO meet­ings, af­ter leaked pho­tos from the Manchester bomb scene ap­peared in The New York Times.

The U.S.-Bri­tish de­fence and se­cu­rity part­ner­ship “is built on trust. And part of that trust is know­ing that in­tel­li­gence can be shared con­fi­dently.”

Stoltenberg, Justin Trudeau and Dutch Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte also stressed the im­por­tance of be­ing able to trust al­lies in fight­ing ex­trem­ism.

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