Published: Fri, July 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Trump's claim that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will boost defense spending disputed

Trump's claim that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will boost defense spending disputed

As a contentious North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Brussels began to wind down on Thursday, President Donald Trump claimed victory over defense spending and reaffirmed USA commitment to the alliance.

Trump threw the summit into turmoil by demanding not only that allies reach their commitment to increase spending to two percent of GDP "immediately" - instead of by 2024 as previously agreed - but also telling them to eventually double the figure to a punishing four percent.

Trump: "They really stepped up their commitment ... stepped it up an additional 33 billion ... "

Merkel, facing domestic political opposition to pushing defence spending up from 1.2 percent of GDP, said she explained to Trump how much was already being done.

Mr Trump said he told counterparts on Wednesday that he was "extremely unhappy" with the lack of progress being made towards meeting the alliance target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.

A senior North Atlantic Treaty Organisation diplomatic source said that alliance countries agree there needs to be a push for more defense spending, but warned that the group should be showing greater unity ahead of Trump's meeting with Putin.

As a result, he continued, "NATO is much stronger than it was two days ago". Poles remain grateful to U.S. President Ronald Reagan's role in defeating communism and see the United States as its only real power that could protect it from falling under Moscow's control again. "It has been really fantastic to see the level of spirit in that room". Some fear Trump, who has often voiced admiration for the Russian leader, could make a bargain with the Kremlin that could sacrifice the security needs of the region, such as acknowledging Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. "Everybody in that room got along and they agreed to pay more and they agreed to pay it more quickly".

One official said the morning meeting Thursday was taking place against the backdrop of Trump threatening allies to "go it alone" unless if they agree to increase their defense budgets immediately. "Sometimes, if I didn't know better I might say that we purposefully trying to destabilize the Western alliance and to turn the world upside-down".

When pressed to explain Trump's claims he credited the president with a "new sense of urgency" among allies to "redouble our efforts" to increase defence spending, but did not report any new cash or time commitments.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic mounted a charm offensive at the summit, presenting Trump with a Croatian soccer jersey as giving him plenty of attention.

"That is all", Macron said.

"I think it's fine", Trump said when asked about the protests.

Questioned repeatedly about Trump's unpredictable demands, Macron injected a note of gravity, underlining that NATO's work is important, that it involves the lives of men and women - U.S. Corporal Joseph Maciel from California was killed in an insider attack in southern Afghanistan last weekend - and must not be taken lightly. He added that Putin was "not my enemy" and "hopefully, someday, he'll be a friend". He linked calls for higher defence spending to complaints about Germany's trade surplus and renewed a threat to raise tariffs on EU-made cars if trade terms do not change.

"I believe through strength you get peace", he said.

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