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Trump Demands More Defense Spending from NATO Allies

WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump praised NATO nations for increasing their financial contributions to the Western alliance, but forced them to pay more, saying America still bears a disproportionate share of the protection cost of Europe, AP reported Wednesday.
The President met on Tuesday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who was in Washington to mark the 70th anniversary of the organization created to counter Russian aggression.
Both leaders had nice words for each other But in the past, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and suggested he should pull the US out of the alliance if member countries did not significantly increase defense spending.
“We have worked together to get some of our allies to pay their fair share,” Trump told reporters. “At some point, it will go higher.”
Trump took the credit for the increase in expenses. However, the spending of the 29 NATO nations, which declined after the end of the cold war, has actually increased since 2014 – before Trump took office.
“Before we came here, NATO spending was drastically reduced,” he said. “It was just a one-way street, and since I’ve been president … it’s been a rocket, and we have to keep going like that.”
After Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine in 2014, member countries decided to strengthen defense budgets and “move to” 2% of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. The United States spends about 3.4% of its GDP on defense.
Since Trump took office, Europe’s allies and Canada have added $ 41 billion to their defense budgets. That will reach $100 billion by the end of next year, Stoltenberg said. Germany, however, remains the main target of Trump’s anger, as it now plans to spend 1.5% by 2024, which is lower than the 2% recommendation.
“Germany does not pay its fair share,” said Trump. “I have a very good feeling for Germany, but they do not pay what they should pay, we pay a large part of NATO, which basically protects Europe.”
Stoltenberg said the 2% recommendation was not invented by the US and was a target of the 29 allies set in 2014 before Trump took office. But he thanked Trump for his “strong commitment to NATO” and for his leadership in strengthening commitments made by member countries.
“The allies are really progressing,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“President Trump’s clear message has been helpful: it has a real impact – it’s about doing what NATO allies are committed to doing – we still have a long way to go – a lot to do – but we have really seen considerable progress in defense spending by NATO allies.”
Sometimes Stoltenberg served as a buffer between Trump and some European allies he irritated.
Trump, who operated on an “America First” platform, slapped the tariffs on the European Union and pulled the United States out of the historic Paris climate agreement and agreement on nuclear power plant. Trump’s readiness to agree with Russian leader Vladimir Putin – despite Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election and many other aggressive actions in recent years – has alarmed those who consider Russia as a growing threat.
“NATO’s biggest challenge is the absence of a strong, principled American presidential leadership for the first time in its history,” wrote two former US envoys to NATO, Nicholas Burns and Douglas Lute in a report on the 70th anniversary of the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Lute and Burns said NATO leaders were planning not to hold a summit in 2019 to mark the 70th anniversary, fearing that Trump would “break up a controversial meeting like he did every time he met NATO leaders in the last two years”. The alliance is planning a small summit of leaders in December that Trump should attend.
Allies see Trump as the “most urgent and often difficult problem” of NATO, they wrote in their report. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Trump, saying their conclusion was “simply wrong”.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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