At NATO, Trump lashes out at allies and then asks them to double their defense spending goals
President Trump on Wednesday issued an ambitious call for vastly more defense spending at NATO, pushing for a doubling of their defense spending commitments hours after he delivered a blistering tirade against Germany and other allies.
The demand during a closed-door meeting of NATO leaders would radically 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 Trump joined fellow NATO leaders in approving a sweeping set of plans to bolster defenses against Russia and terrorism, the U.S. president has complained that Europe has been taking advantage of U.S. military support for the continent. He urged his counterparts to substantially 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 Trump’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 in a statement.
“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 Trump’s demands 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 Trump’s pugnacious posture and rhetoric, 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.”
Trump raised the spending issue during his remarks in the first and main session of the NATO summit.
The decision to sign on to the NATO defense plans plans suggested that Trump is holding back from slashing support for the alliance, despite his anger over 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.