Donald Trump pushes North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies to double their defence spending

Leroy Wright
July 12, 2018

The NATO summit is usually a chance for member nations to reaffirm their commitment to an alliance that focuses on Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine and other world hotspots.

"Everybody's talking about it all over the world, they're saying we're paying you billions of dollars to protect you but you're paying billions of dollars to Russian Federation".

The alliance set a goal in 2014 for each country to reach the 2% of GDP spending target by 2024.

Speaking before he left Washington on Tuesday for his week-long trip, which also includes his first official visit to Britain, Trump told reporters: "I have North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, I have the United Kingdom, which is in somewhat turmoil".

Trump's pipeline criticism was an unusual line of attack for a president who has proclaimed himself eager to improve relations with Russia's Vladimir Putin and dismissed the US intelligence community's assessment that Russian Federation tried to undermine Western democracy by meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election to help Trump win.

While the United States and Europe have historically been close military and economic allies, President Donald Trump has upended that order by repeatedly taking Europe to task over defense spending and trade while pursuing a closer USA relationship with adversary Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The organization is asking all member states spend a minimum 2 percent of their GDP on defensive measures by 2024.

"Well, I have to say I think it's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia when you're supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia", Trump said.

"This has gone on for many presidents".

Stoltenberg agreed there should be more done to prompt allies to invest more in their defense.

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European - and Canadian - military budgets have increased over the last two years, something Trump prodded NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to give him credit for on Wednesday.

Germany indeed devotes only about 1.25 percent of its GDP to defense. At breakfast he had spoken of Germany as a "captive" of Russian Federation because of the two countries' energy relationship, which he labelled "inappropriate".

"Take a look at the chart", Trump instructed the reporter, explaining the owed a mass of money for decades of delinquent allied payments.

"Instead of worrying what other countries are spending on their militaries, the president should worry about the ways his own military wastes funds that could be used to solve problems at home". "I have great confidence they'll be spending more".

Trump appeared to substantially overstate German reliance on Russian energy and to imply Berlin was funding a pipeline which German Chancellor Angela Merkel says is a commercial venture.

The president received a lot of attention and criticism today when he started the summit with America's allies in Brussels by attacking Germany in the middle of a photo-op. "You tell me, is that appropriate?"

"NATO benefits Europe far more than it does the US", Trump wrote. But as noted above, American defense expenditures are for much more than just protecting Europe.

"And I think that's very inappropriate".

"We're protecting Germany, we're protecting France, we're protecting all of these countries. Where energy supply is concerned, we diversify, but the main overarching topic is the summit - we want a summit that sends out the message of unity". Since President Trump took office, he has been highly critical of the spending guideline put in place by the alliance.

"We are investing heavily in the German armed forces and other European countries too, because the armed forces need it. American values can be relied upon but American help, less so", he said.

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