NATO leaders pledged their “unwavering commitment” to boost defense spending on Wednesday, even though President Donald Trump criticized European leaders for spending too little while America spends too much to help NATO, Fox News reports.
The U.S. and European allies signed a declaration stating they are “committed to improving the balance of sharing the costs and responsibilities of alliance membership.”
The declaration comes after confrontational and testy discussions between Trump and other NATO leaders, according to Fox News.
Trump has been consistent in criticizing NATO countries for not paying what he thinks should be their fair share at the same time that, according to the president, America pays too much money to NATO. He suggested America would only come to the defense of NATO nations that paid enough money, Fox News reports.
Trump hammered NATO countries on meeting their goal of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense by 2024. NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet that benchmark based on current trends.
As NATO vows to pursue those targets, Trump is seeking even more, Fox News reports.
The president used Twitter to call for members to meet the 2 percent commitment immediately, and in a statement Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump, at the summit, “suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4 percent. Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations.”
Trump started his trip by pressing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenber about the payment imbalance that Trump perceives at the same time the other countries purchase energy from Moscow.
“We are stronger together,” Stoltenberg said, while acknowledging there can be differences among allies.
“But how can you be together when you’re getting energy from the group you want protection from?” Trump responded, using Germany as an example. Trump challenged Stoltenberg to explain why Berlin was getting energy from Russia, and asserted that Germany was “totally controlled” by and “captive to Russia” over a pipeline project.
That pipeline project, Nord Stream 2 pipeline, doubles the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany, while sidestepping transit countries like Ukraine. The project is opposed by the U.S. and some European Union members.
“We’re supposed to protect you against Russia and yet you make this deal with Russia,” Trump said of Germany. “Explain that. It can’t be explained.”
Trump followed up on Twitter: “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”
Former Secretary of State John Kerry later responded to Trump’s comments about Germany as “strange” and “counterproductive.”
“It was disgraceful, destructive, and flies in the face of the actual interests of the United States of America,” Kerry said in a statement, adding that Trump “set America back this morning.”
“He is steadily destroying our reputation in the world,” Kerry said, adding that Trump displayed a “woeful ignorance” of European defense spending.