Ahead of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit, Trump takes on European Union over trade spending

Remigio Civitarese
Luglio 12, 2018

He demanded that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries "Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025" and then rattled them further by privately suggesting member nations should spend 4 percent of their gross domestic product on defense - a bigger share than even the United States now pays, according to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation statistics.

He says the USA "pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe" and is demanding members meet their pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.

"And then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they're paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia", Trump said.

As well as Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Charles Michel, the prime minister of Belgium, were also singled out by Trump for undershooting on their spending targets when USA taxpayers, funding a defense budget worth about 3.6 percent of their national income, foot much of NATO's bills.

The US president accused Germany of only spending "a little bit over 1 percent" of its economic output on defence compared to the 4.2 percent spent by the US "in actual numbers".

The meeting will come a day before Putin sits down with US President Donald Trump in Helsinki for the first bilateral summit between the two leaders.

Trump also prepared to make a previously unscheduled public statement, the White House said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the summit atmosphere was "much calmer than everyone had said" and he saw a will to maintain the unity of the alliance, while Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said Trump was "constructive".

"I have to tell you that the atmosphere last night at dinner was very open, was very constructive and it was very positive", Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the president of Croatia, told reporters.

He described the current situation as "disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States". The president is also not the first leader to point to the impact of Nord Stream 2 on Europe, echoing complaints from Eastern European allies who note it would cut out transit countries such as Poland and Ukraine.

"The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough, especially some", he said.

Stoltenberg agreed there should be more done to prompt allies to invest more in their defense. Energy exports represent Russia's main source of revenue, and Trump argues that the pipeline undermines NATO's goal, as it's created to counter Russian aggression.

Trump told reporters during brief remarks at the end of the meeting that the two had a "very, very good relationship" and congratulated Merkel on her "tremendous success".

The defense minister agreed with Trump about defense spending.

Trump's next stop will be London, where he'll be meeting with Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

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