U.S. President Donald Trump suggested to NATO allies that the alliance's target to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense should be doubled. It was an informal proposal, yet one that does little to ease tensions at an already charged summit.
The suggestion was made behind closed doors at a gathering that's shaping up into a fight on several fronts, with Trump accusing Germany of being a "captive" to Russia over its support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. He's also badgering allies to meet a 2 percent target that only five of the 29 members currently meet.
NATO set a goal for members to spend a set proportion of economic output on defense at a 2014 meeting in Wales. Internally, not even NATO uses the figure as a standalone measure of what makes a good ally. Trump's idea wasn't reflected in the summit conclusions.
According to a French official, Trump said it would be a good thing if everyone spent around 4 percent on defense, which was presumed to be a generous rounding up of the U.S. budget of some 3.57 percent of GDP. It wasn't a demand, rather just a mention, the French official said.
Still, Trump is using the 4-percent-argument to ram home his message that the U.S. gets a bad deal from allies. His point, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, is that NATO members should be spending far more than 2 percent.
Raised it Before
"During the president's remarks today at the NATO summit he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2% of their GDP on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4%," Sanders wrote in an email. "The President raised this same issue when he was at NATO last year. President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations."
Asked about Trump's comments, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was
reluctant to endorse such a move.
"I will focus on what we have agreed and we have agreed that we committed to the pledge increasing defense spending to 2 percent," he told reporters. "And let's start with that. We have a way to go."
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