Friday 19 January 2018

Trump lectures Nato leaders over defence spend at Brussels summit

US President Donald Trump speaks next to Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks next to Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: Getty Images
Melania Trump at a children’s hospital in Brussels yesterday. Photos: PA/Reuters
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, (fifth left) and (front row second left to right) NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit on May 25, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Getty Images

Steve Holland Brussels

US President Donald Trump yesterday intensified his accusations that Nato allies were not spending enough on defence and said more terror attacks would take place unless the alliance did more to stop militants.

In unexpectedly abrupt remarks as Nato leaders stood alongside him, Mr Trump said certain member countries owed "massive amounts of money" to the United States and Nato, even though allied contributions are voluntary, with multiple budgets.

His scripted comments contrasted with Nato's choreographed efforts to play up the West's unity by inviting Mr Trump to unveil a memorial to the 9/11 attacks on the United States at the new Nato headquarters in Brussels.

"We will never waver in our determination to defeat terrorism and achieve lasting security, prosperity and peace," Mr Trump said in the speech before a dinner with leaders.

"Terrorism must be stopped or ... the horror you saw in Manchester and so many other places will continue forever," Mr Trump said, referring to Monday's suicide bombing that killed 22 people, including children.

Mr Trump called on Nato, an organisation founded on collective defence against the Soviet threat, to include limiting immigration in its tasks as well as fighting terrorism and deterring Russia.

Nato leaders wanted Mr Trump to publicly support the military alliance that he had called "obsolete" during his campaign.

But he instead returned to a grievance about Europe's drop in defence spending since the end of the Cold War and failed to publicly commit to Nato's founding Article V rule which stipulates that an attack on one ally is an attack against all.

"Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying for their defence," Mr Trump said, standing by a piece of the wreckage of the Twin Towers.

"This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States, and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years," Mr Trump said as the other leaders watched.

Nicholas Burns, a former long-time diplomat and ambassador to Nato from 2001 to 2005, now a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said every US president since Harry Truman had pledged support for Article V and that the United States would defend Europe.

"Not so Trump today at Nato. Major mistake," he said on Twitter.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Mr Trump was "100pc" committed to collective defence. "We are not playing cutesie with this. He is fully committed," Mr Spicer said.

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Praise was always going to be in short supply after Mr Trump's sharp election campaign criticism of the alliance, which he blamed for not doing more to combat terrorism.

Last year, Mr Trump threatened to abandon US allies in Europe if they did not spend enough on defence, comments that were particularly unnerving for the ex-Soviet Baltic states on Russia's border which fear Moscow might try a repeat of its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

Although he has since softened his tone in phone calls and meetings with Western leaders, Mr Trump's sharp words yesterday recalled his awkward meeting with Angela Merkel in March, when he pressed the German chancellor for Germany to meet Nato's military spending target.

Nato diplomats planned to placate Mr Trump with a pledge to agree to national plans by the end of this year showing how Nato allies will meet a promise to spend 2pc of economic output every year on defence by 2024.

But Mr Trump increased the pressure, calling that agreement made at a summit in Wales in 2014 "the bare minimum".

"Even 2pc of GDP is insufficient ... 2pc is the bare minimum for confronting today's very real and very viscous threats," Mr Trump said.

He also made his presence felt at his first Nato summit, literally, pushing his way past Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, whose country joins the organisation next month, in footage that went viral. Mr Spicer said he had not seen the video but assumed the US president was moving to his designated spot.

It was left to Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to try to hammer home the message of unity. "Nato is more than a club, more than an organisation. Nato embodies the unique bond between Europe and North America," he said.

Irish Independent

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