Trump: NATO not spending enough
After criticizing allies’ contribution, president seeks boost to defenses.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued an ambitious call for more defense spending at NATO, pushing for a doubling of their defense spending commitments hours after he delivered a critique of Germany and other allies.
The request, made during a closed-door meeting of NATO lead- ers, would increase the amount of money channeled toward military purposes in the Western alliance — and even the United States is currently falling well short of Trump’s new goal.
Although the president joined fellow NATO leaders in approving a sweeping set of plans to improve defenses against Russia and terrorism, the U.S. president has said that Europe has been taking advantage of U.S. military support for the continent. He urged his counterparts to raise targets that they are already missing.
The move would raise billions
more for defense. But not even the United States — which spends more money on defense than any other nation in the world — meets the president’s new goal of annual spending of 4 percent of nations’ gross domestic product. Washington spent 3.6 percent last year.
“During the president’s remarks today at the NATO summit he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4 percent. The president raised this same issue when he was at NATO last year,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said .
“President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations,” she said.
Asked at a news conference about the president’s request on defense spending, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg suggested that the focus should be on getting every member country to reach the current goal of 2 percent. Only eight of 29 NATO countries are on track to meet the 2 percent goal this year.
Despite the president’s request, allies sought to project unity at the conclusion of meetings in Brussels.
“We do have disagreements, but most importantly, we have decisions that are pushing this alliance forward and making us stronger,” Stoltenberg said. “At the end of the day, we all agree that North America and Europe are safer together.”
The decision to sign on to the NATO defense plans suggested that the president is holding back from reducing support for the alliance, despite his view of what he says is Europe’s taking advantage of the U.S. security umbrella. NATO leaders are still concerned that he will make concessions to Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two meet on Monday in Helsinki.
The series of meetings — beginning with NATO and capped by a summit with Putin — has been largely framed around the president’s belief that Washington bears an unfair burden to help protect its allies.
“Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump told Stoltenberg.
“We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against,” Trump said, referring to European purchases of Russian natural gas.
Germany has not met its NATO spending commitments and is beginning construction on a second natural gas pipeline to Russia. Germany and other European NATO partners argue, however, that they have increased contributions to the military alliance and plan to give more in coming years. Germany’s leadership has said the pipeline is a private business decision and they have been reluctant to interfere.
The accusation of Russian influence may have been particularly difficult for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in Communist East Germany.
The U.S. leader traveled to Europe saying that a Monday summit with Putin will be the easiest of his week of diplomacy — an assertion that differed from NATO leaders’ belief that the alliance should project a strong and united front against a strategic rival.
Trump is in Brussels for two days of NATO meetings. After that, he will travel to England to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May, then spend the weekend at one of his private golf clubs in Scotland. Finally, he will head to Helsinki for a summit with Putin.
President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday.