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Trump pushes allies for immediate military spending increase

Trump on Wednesday called for NATO members to more than double their defense spending, meeting a 10-year goal years ahead of deadline.
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"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?" Trump tweeted. "The U.S. is paying for Europe's protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025."

In 2014, NATO members agreed to move toward spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024.

During the president's remarks, he suggested countries not only meet their minimum commitment of 2 percent but increase it to 4 percent, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary said in a statement.

Despite the demands, Trump joined the other 28 heads of state and signed the NATO declaration, which reflects current commitments.

Trump started the NATO summit Wednesday with criticism, saying certain Western nations need to spend more on defense and calling Germany a "captive" of Russia.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived in Belgium Tuesday for the summit, ahead of meetings later this week with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Britain and Vladimir Putin in Finland.

Trump's criticism involved countries he said are not spending enough on their own defenses in exchange for NATO protection. The United States pays about 67 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, more than any other nation, although only 3.5 percent is NATO-related. The organization is asking all member states spend a minimum 2 percent of their GDP on defensive measures by 2024.

"Many countries are not paying what they should, and, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back," Trump said at a breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. "They're delinquent, as far as I'm concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them."

While answering questions from reporters before the breakfast, Trump drew contrasts between his hard stance on NATO and the positions of his predecessors.

"This has gone on for many presidents. But no other president brought it up like I bring it up ... it's an unfair burden on the United States."

Stoltenberg agreed there should be more done to prompt allies to invest more in their defense. He credited Trump, saying NATO countries are investing more on defense because of his leadership.

Germany presently spends about 1.2 percent on defense.

"You know, we're protecting Germany, we're protecting France. We're protecting everybody ... this has been going on for decades," Trump said. "This has been brought up by other presidents. But other presidents never did anything about it because I don't think they understood it or they just didn't want to get involved."

Trump also criticized Germany for its use of Russian gas. The United States spends heavily to defend Germany from Russia, he said, while Germany is paying "billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia."

"How can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the country you want protection against?" Trump asked. "I think it's something that NATO has to look at."

Stoltenberg said NATO, despite some differences of opinion among member states, is getting stronger.

"A strong NATO is good for Europe and it's also good for the United States," he told Trump. "We look forward to the meeting you're going to have with President Putin. And I think that leaders are also looking forward to your thoughts about the meeting with President Putin later on."

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen dismissed Trump's comments, saying Germany is not captive to Russia and the country can take Trump's criticisms in stride.

"I think we can cope with it," von der Leyen said. "If we look at the gas pipeline, Germany is an independent country. Where energy supply is concerned, we diversify, but the main overarching topic is the summit -- we want a summit that sends out the message of unity."

The defense minister agreed with Trump about defense spending.

"We are investing heavily in the German armed forces and other European countries too, because the armed forces need it ... So we improved a lot but there's still work to be done. On that point the American friends have a point," von der Leyen said.

Later, Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he said he has a "very, very good relationship" with. He told her he believes U.S.-German trade will increase.

Merkel, who did not address Trump's earlier comments, said she was "very pleased" be able to discuss issues like economic development, migration and trade.

Trump leaves for London Thursday for a state dinner and visit with May, and later Queen Elizabeth II. From there, he travels to Helsinki, Finland, for Monday's summit with the Kremlin leader. He will return to Washington, D.C., early Tuesday.
By Susan McFarland
 
https://www.geezgo.com/sps/30174
Trump pushes allies for immediate military spending increase Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 5:29 PM Rating: 5

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