Trump’s claim that NATO will boost defense spending disputed
President Donald Trump closed out his chaotic two-day visit to NATO Thursday by declaring victory, claiming that member nations caved to his demands to significantly increase defense spending and reaffirming his commitment to the alliance.
But there were no immediate specifics on what he had achieved, and French President Emmanuel Macron quickly disputed Trump’s claim that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending beyond 2 percent of gross domestic product.
“The United States’ commitment to NATO remains very strong,” Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference following an emergency session of NATO members held to address his threats.
Trump had spent his time in Brussels berating members of the military alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defense, accusing Europe of freeloading off the U.S. and raising doubts about whether he would come to members’ defense if they were attacked.
Trump said he made his anger clear to allies on Wednesday.
“Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening,” Trump said, adding that, in response, European countries agreed to up their spending.
“They have substantially upped their commitment and now we’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO,” he said.
Trump did not specify which countries had committed to what, and it remained unclear whether any had changed their plans. He seemed to suggest a speeded-up timeline, saying nations would be “spending at a much faster clip.”
“Some are at 2 percent, others have agreed definitely to go to 2 percent, and some are going back to get the approval, and which they will get to go to 2 percent,” he said.
NATO countries in 2014 committed to spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense within a decade. NATO has estimated that only 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.
Macron, in his own press conference, seemed to reject Trump’s claim that NATO powers had agreed to increases beyond previous targets. He said the allies had confirmed their intention to meet the goal of 2 percent by 2024 and no more.
The emergency session came amid reports that Trump had threatened to leave the alliance if allies didn’t immediately up their spending, but officials said no explicit threat was made.
“President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO,” Macron said.
Trump has taken an aggressive tone during the NATO summit, questioning the value of an alliance that has defined decades of American foreign policy, torching an ally and proposing a massive increase in European defense spending.
Earlier Thursday, Trump called out U.S. allies on Twitter, saying, “Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia.”
He complained the United States “pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe” and demanded that member nations meet their pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, which “must ultimately go to 4%!”
Under fire for his warm embrace of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Trump on Wednesday also turned a harsh spotlight on Germany’s own ties to Russia, alleging that a natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Angela Merkel’s government “totally controlled” and “captive” to Russia.