U.S. President Donald Trump hectored NATO leaders to pay their “fair share” on defense to help counter the terrorist threat, in a public shaming that risked souring a ceremony intended to mark the alliance’s unity.
Citing this week’s attack in the English city of Manchester, Trump told fellow alliance leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel that NATO should focus its efforts on combating terrorism. Yet of the 28 member nations, 23 “are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” he said.
“That is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” Trump said at an event in Brussels on Thursday to mark the opening of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s new headquarters. “Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.”
Trump’s rebuke of mainly European allies for not spending the recommended 2 percent of GDP on defense came during a ceremony marking the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S., when NATO invoked for the first and only time its mutual-defense clause.
Trump said that NATO would have had $119 billion more if NATO members lived up to their obligations. “Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats,” he said.
Merkel, who stood emotionless during the speech, earlier issued her own challenge to the U.S. president, saying that member states including Germany had already pledged to work towards the 2 percent target by 2024 and that outlays on security more generally also count toward the goal. A plan to reaffirm the pledge made three years ago “means nothing more or less than that,” she said.
“We’re happy that in the future the sole question will no longer be how much we spend on defense but also what contributions are being made to NATO in terms of capabilities and contributions we’re offering,” Merkel told reporters as she arrived for the meeting. “Germany stands strong in this point and I’ll make that clear.”
© Copyright 2021 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.