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Donald Trump

Trump’s first foreign foray: a visit to ‘hellhole’ Brussels for meeting of ‘obsolete’ Nato

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 10:33pm

US President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels in May to attend a meeting of Nato, his first scheduled trip overseas that comes as European leaders remain anxious about whether the US will continue its level of support for the 28-nation alliance.

The White House in a statement announcing the May 25 trip also said that Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will visit Washington on April 12. In a call last month with Stoltenberg, Trump agreed to join in a meeting of Nato leaders. He is also planning to attend the G7 Summit during the same month in Italy.

During the election campaign, Trump criticised Nato and Brussels, equating it to “like living in a hellhole right now”.

“The President looks forward to meeting with his Nato counterparts to reaffirm our strong commitment to Nato, and to discuss issues critical to the alliance, especially allied responsibility-sharing and Nato’s role in the fight against terrorism,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in the statement.

The president spurred widespread anxiety in Nato when he called the alliance “obsolete” and suggested during last year’s presidential campaign that the US might not honour its defence commitments if other members don’t pay their share.

Trump has complained that most Nato nations weren’t meeting the alliance’s goal that members spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. The US accounts for about 70 per cent of Nato’s overall defence expenditure. US Defence Secretary James Mattis warned in mid-February that Washington would “moderate” its support unless other members contribute more.

Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday at the White House, an awkward summit that was followed by Trump tweeting a day later that Germany owes “vast sums of money to Nato” and the US “must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defence it provides to Germany!”