Donald Trump claims Nato countries will increase defence spending but he appears to have exaggerated by how much
Trump threw the summit into turmoil by demanding not only that allies reach their commitment to increase spending to 2 per cent of GDP ‘immediately’ – instead of by 2024 as previously agreed – but also telling them to eventually double the figure to a punishing 4 per cent
US President Donald Trump said Nato countries had agreed to increase their defence spending after he forced crisis talks over his mounting demands at a fractious summit in Brussels.
Trump said there had been “tremendous progress” after his “firm” warnings during the tense two-day meeting in Brussels, during which he singled out Germany for special criticism.
“I let them know I was extremely unhappy with what was happening and they have substantially upped their commitment and now we’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong Nato, much stronger than it was two days ago,” Trump said in a freewheeling press conference.
“Tremendous progress has been made, everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment they’re going to up it at levels they’ve never thought of before. It’s been amazing to see the level of spirit in that room.”
Trump threw the summit into turmoil by demanding not only that allies reach their commitment to increase spending to 2 per cent of GDP “immediately” – instead of by 2024 as previously agreed – but also telling them to eventually double the figure to a punishing 4 per cent.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has cosied up to Trump despite their wide political differences, said Nato was “much stronger” after the summit. However, Macron, in his own press conference, said the allies had confirmed their intention to meet the goal of 2 per cent by 2024 and no more.
“Everyone agreed to respect the commitments they made,” Macron said. “We reaffirmed a credible budget strategy that meets our needs.”
“As with all our summits, sometimes the corridors, comments and tweets take on more importance than what is negotiated, said or endorsed by heads of state.
“I believe only one thing: the communique we have approved, the strategy we defend and the seriousness we have, because it is the security of our people we are talking about.
“The communique is clear: it reaffirms the commitment to 2 per cent [of GDP on defence spending] for 2024.”
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg later told CNN the organisation’s member countries committed to increase defence spending 2 per cent, but would not confirm Trump’s claim that the boost was actually 4 per cent.
“So we have a commitment to spend 2 per cent. The important thing now is that we need to invest more – we need to get more money. And the good thing is that, very much because of that very clear message from President Trump on this meeting, I think that allies understand this need to do that,” Stoltenberg said after being repeatedly asked about Trump’s assertion that members had agreed to a 4 per cent increase.
Trump also said he would bring up allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election when he meets Vladimir Putin in Helsinki next week.
Asked what he will discuss with the Russian president, Trump replied: “We will be asking about Syria, I will be asking about meddling, your favourite question.
“Somebody was saying, is he an enemy? He’s not my enemy. Is he your friend? No, I don’t know him very much. Hopefully, someday, he’ll be a friend. It could happen.”
Trump also said he is “not happy about Crimea”, referring to the fact Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
“That was on Barack Obama’s watch, that was not on Trump’s watch,” he said. “Would I have allowed it to happen? No, I would not.”
Asked what would be the best possible result from his meeting with Putin, Trump said: “What would be the ultimate? Let’s see. No more nuclear weapons anywhere in the world, no more wars, no more problems, no more conflicts … That would be my ultimate.”
Trump also touched on Brexit, saying he was not sure that Britons had voted for the plan presented by Prime Minister Theresa May, which has triggered a British cabinet rebellion.
“The people voted to break it up [Britain’s ties with the EU],” Trump told the press conference on the eve of a trip to Britain. “So I would imagine that’s what they will do, but maybe they will take a little bit of a different route. I don’t know that is what they voted for.”
Trump also said he expected Iran to call him one day with an offer to allay US security concerns, saying Tehran was treating Washington with much more respect after he pulled the US out of a nuclear deal.
“They’re treating us with much more respect right now than they did in the past,” Trump said. “I know they’re having a lot of problems and their economy is collapsing. But I will tell you this: at a certain point they’re going to call me they’re going to say ‘Let’s make a deal’. They’re feeling a lot of pain right now.”
Additional reporting by Reuters