Trump says US commitment to NATO 'remains very strong'
By JONATHAN LEMIRE AND JILL COLVIN | Associated Press | Published: July 12, 2018
BRUSSELS — A raucous and divisive NATO summit concluded Thursday with all 29 NATO member states agreeing that there still is a common commitment to the military alliance after U.S. President Donald Trump said everyone had committed to push up defense budgets.
Responding to reports that he had threatened to leave the alliance if no major increase in spending was visible, Trump said "that is unnecessary" because of all the commitments for more spending he saw around the table. Trump called it "a fantastic meeting," speaking at a news conference before flying to Britain.
He did not immediately say what those commitments consisted of.
After the emergency session of NATO members, Trump said the U.S. commitment to the alliance "remains very strong."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Brussels that "there was a clear commitment to NATO by all" at an emergency session of the military alliance.
She said that Trump raised the topic of better burden-sharing and more spending by Germany, "as has been discussed for months," and that, "we made clear that we're on the way."
Trump has several times assailed Germany for not spending a large enough proportion of its gross domestic product on defense.
Earlier Thursday, Trump renewed his pressure tactics on fellow NATO nations, hammering U.S. allies on Twitter.
Trump, in a series of tweets from Brussels, said that, "Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia."
He complained the United States "pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe" and demanded that member nations meet their pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, which "must ultimately go to 4%!"
Trump has taken an aggressive tone during the NATO summit, questioning the value of an alliance that has defined decades of American foreign policy, torching an ally and proposing a massive increase in European defense spending.
Under fire for his warm embrace of Russia's Vladimir Putin, Trump on Wednesday turned a harsh spotlight on Germany's own ties to Russia, alleging that a natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Angela Merkel's government "totally controlled" and "captive" to Russia.
He continued the attack Thursday, complaining that, "Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia."
"Not acceptable!" he railed before arriving late at NATO headquarters for a morning of meetings that will include talks with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia. In the afternoon, he heads to his next stop: the United Kingdom.
Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, echoed Trump's rhetoric, telling Fox Business Network that "Germany is a tremendous problem, both for Europe itself, and for the United States in this sense."
"What's more surprising, the fact that the President Trump is calling them out on that or that previous presidents haven't?" he asked. "It's really extraordinary that Donald Trump has to be the person to point out that the emperor in Europe has no clothes."
The tough rhetoric against a core ally comes just days before Trump is set to meet one-on-one with Putin in Finland.
With scorching language, Trump questioned the necessity of the alliance that formed a bulwark against Soviet aggression, tweeting after a day of contentious meetings: "What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?"
During the meetings, he demanded via tweet that NATO countries "Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025" and then rattled them further by privately suggesting member nations should spend 4 percent of their gross domestic product on defense — a bigger share than even the United States currently pays, according to NATO statistics.
It was the most recent in a series of demands and insults that critics fear will undermine a decades-old alliance launched to counterbalance Soviet aggressions. And it comes just days before Trump sits down with Putin at the conclusion of his closely watched European trip.
Trump has spent weeks berating members of the alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defense, accusing Europe of freeloading off the U.S. and raising doubts about whether he would come to members' defense if they were ever attacked.
He described the current situation as "disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States."
However, a formal summit declaration issued by the NATO leaders Wednesday reaffirmed their "unwavering commitment" to the 2 percent pledge set in 2014 and made no reference to any effort to get to 4 percent.
Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, shot back that she had "experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union, and I'm very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany and can thus say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions and that's very good."
Amid the tumult, British Prime Minister Theresa May sounded a call for solidarity among the allies, saying, "As we engage Russia we must do so from a position of unity and strength - holding out hope for a better future, but also clear and unwavering on where Russia needs to change its behavior for this to become a reality. And, as long as Russia persists in its efforts to undermine our interests and values, we must continue to deter and counter them."
From Brussels, Trump heads to England, where May's government is in turmoil over her plans for exiting the European Union.
Although administration officials point to the long-standing alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom, Trump's itinerary will largely keep him out of central London, where significant protests are expected.
Instead, a series of events — a black-tie dinner with business leaders, a meeting with May and an audience with Queen Elizabeth II — will happen outside the bustling city, where Mayor Sadiq Khan has been in a verbal battle with Trump.
Woody Johnson, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, dismissed the significance of the protests, telling Fox News that one of the reasons the two countries are so close "is because we have the freedoms that we've all fought for. And one of the freedoms we have is freedom of speech and the freedom to express your views. And I know that's valued very highly over here and people can disagree strongly and still go out to dinner."
He also said that meeting the queen would be an experience that Trump "will really cherish."
Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia. They pay only a fraction of their cost. The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2018
....On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable! All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2018