President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that NATO was "no longer obsolete" — calling on its 29 member countries to join to fight Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to combat terrorism and to "pay what they owe."
"In facing our common challenges, we must also ensure that NATO members meet their financial obligations and pay what they owe," Trump said at a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House. "Many have not been doing that.
"If other countries pay their fair share, instead of relying on the United States to make up the difference, we will all be much more secure — and our partnership will be made that much stronger."
Trump said he and Stoltenberg had "a productive discussion" about what more NATO could do in the fight against terrorism.
"I complained about that a long time ago — and they made a change," he said. "Now, they do fight terrorism.
"I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete.
"It's my hope that NATO will take on an increased role in supporting our Iraqi partners in their battle against ISIS," Trump said.
Regarding Syria, Trump slammed Assad as "a butcher" because of last week's chemical attack, saying "it was very disappointed to see.
"It's disappointing, no matter who does it, but when you get into the gases, especially that form, it's vicious and violent," Trump added.
He noted the images of "young children dying, babies dying, fathers holding children in their arms that were dead, dead children.
"There can't be a worse sight, and it shouldn't be allowed.
"That's a butcher," the president said. "That's a butcher."
He added he ordered the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired on Syria last Thursday because "I felt we had to do something about it.
"I have absolutely no doubt we did the right thing," Trump said. "It was very, very successfully done."
When asked by reporters whether Syria could have launched its April 4 chemical attack with Russia's advance knowledge, Trump said it was "certainly possible" though "probably unlikely."
The meeting with NATO's Stoltenberg, the former prime minister of Norway, came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flew to Russia and met for nearly two hours with President Vladimir Putin and other Kremlin officials.
"Right now, we're not getting along with Russia at all," Trump said at the news conference. "We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia.
"This has built up for a long period of time, but we'll see what happens.
"Putin is the leader of Russia. Russia is a strong country. We're a very, very strong country.
"We're going to see how that all works out," Trump said.
Stoltenberg said NATO was increasing its defenses in parts of Eastern Europe in an effort to deter Putin's activities in that part of the world.
"The message from NATO is that what we do is proportionate," he told reporters. "It is defensive — and we don't want a new Cold War.
"We don't want a new arms race, and we actually believe there's no contradiction between a strong NATO, a credible deterrence on defense and political dialogue with Russia.
"Actually, we believe that a precondition for a political dialogue with Russia is that we are strong and that we are united — but based on that, we can talk to Russia because Russia is our neighbor.
"Russia is here to stay, so we have to find ways to manage our relationship with Russia," Stoltenberg said.
Regarding China, Trump said he and President Xi Jinping "had a very good bonding" at their summit last weekend in Florida and his Chinese counterpart "wants to do the right thing" on several issues, including North Korea.
"I think he wants to help us with North Korea," Trump said. "We talked trade. We talked about a lot of things — and I said the way you're going to make a good trade deal is to help us with North Korea.
"Otherwise, we're just going to go it alone. That will be all right, too, but going it alone means going with lots of other nations.
"I was very impressed with President Xi — and I think he means well, and I think he wants to help.
"We'll see whether or not he does."
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