Trump Says Allies Agree at Emergency Session to Raise Defense Spending

BRUSSELS --- U.S. President Donald Trump says NATO allies have agreed to speed up increasing their defense spending following criticisms he made at a NATO summit in Brussels.

Speaking after his criticism prompted an unscheduled emergency meeting of allies on July 12, Trump said the leaders of several other NATO member states had agreed to more quickly meet their commitment to raise their defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product.

NATO allies in 2014 had vowed to meet the 2 percent spending target by the end of 2024.

Trump said an additional $33 billion would be spent on defense by NATO allies in "a relatively short number of years."

As a result of the emergency meeting, Trump said, NATO is now "very unified, very strong, no problem."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the conclusion of the summit that "all allies have heard President Trump's message loud and clear." Stoltenberg later clarified to CNN that NATO countries had committed to defense spending at 2 percent of GDP, but would not confirm a claim made by Trump in Brussels that the target was actually 4 percent.

"We understand that this American president is very serious about defense spending, and this is having a clear impact," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was a "clear commitment to NATO" by all who attended the July 12 emergency session. "The American president demanded what has been discussed for months, that there is a change in the burden sharing," she said. "I made clear that we are on this path. And that this is in our own interests and that it will make us stronger."

French President Emmanuel Macron said NATO leaders agreed to cooperate more in view of changing security situations, but he denied that NATO powers had agreed to increase defense spending beyond previous targets.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country remains committed to increasing military spending as it pledged in 2014.

Russia's Foreign Ministry responded to the NATO comments by saying the alliance's plan to "build up" its military activity "deepens dividing lines and intensifies tensions in Europe."

"NATO positions itself as a defensive alliance, but it intensifies the purchase of offensive weapons," a statement said. It asserted that NATO was using accusations against Russia as a "pretext" to expand its assets in the "once-quiet regions of the Baltic and Northern Europe."

It also said that Macedonia was being "pulled into" NATO by "force."

The NATO summit also resulted in an invitation for Macedonia to join the alliance after it implements its settlement of a long-running name dispute with NATO member Greece.

The emergency meeting took place after Trump renewed his criticism of NATO allies about their defense spending and European trade practices during a session that was meant to focus on Black Sea security.

That prompted NATO leaders to ask the presidents of non-member NATO partner states Ukraine and Georgia to leave the room so they could conduct their "allies-only" talks.

'Burden-Sharing'

AFP quoted an unnamed diplomatic source as saying that "Trump took advantage of his speaking time" during the Black Sea session with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili to "return to the issue of burden sharing" -- prompting NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to convene the emergency meeting.

Reuters quoted two NATO sources as saying that Trump told allies in the closed-door meeting to raise their defense spending by January 2019 or the United States would go its own way.

But Macron and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite denied reports that Trump threatened to withdraw the United States from NATO.

Grybauskaite confirmed that Trump insisted NATO defense spending targets should be met more quickly.

At a hastily called press conference following the emergency session, Trump said: "I told people I'd be very unhappy" if they did not increase their defense spending immediately.

Trump also told reporters he thinks he "probably can" withdraw the United States from NATO without approval from the U.S. legislature. But he said such a move was now "unnecessary" because NATO allies have "stepped up" to increase defense spending "like they've never stepped up before."

Earlier on July 12, Trump tweeted during a summit session that NATO countries "Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025."

Trump had previously called on other NATO states to meet the 2 percent defense-spending target by the end of 2024, but stunned his European counterparts on July 11 by calling on them to double their commitments to 4 percent of GDP.

According to NATO statistics, that's a bigger share than the United States currently pays.

NATO's emergency session on July 12 delayed a session meant to focus on the war in Afghanistan -- a gathering bringing together Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and leaders from countries involved in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

Stoltenberg announced after that session that NATO leaders "decided to sustain our presence in Afghanistan until conditions indicate a change is appropriate," and extended financing for Afghan security forces through 2024.

"We also expressed strong support for President Ghani's bold peace proposal," the NATO chief said.

'Clear Signal' to Russia

NATO leaders also reaffirmed the alliance's rejection of Russia's forced annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Stoltenberg said Russia's move was "one of the main reasons why NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the Cold War" and has increased its presence in Poland, the Baltics, and Black Sea states that are NATO partners.

"We also met with the presidents of Georgia and Ukraine," he said on July 12. "Together we discussed shared concerns, including Russia's threats to their sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"Today we agreed to continue working together to prepare Georgia for NATO membership and to step up our support in areas like crisis management, training, and exercises," Stoltenberg said, added that NATO leaders had recognized "the significant progress on reforms which Georgia has made."

"We stand by our earlier decisions in light of Ukraine's aspirations to join the alliance," he said. "We look forward to further progress in Ukraine's reforms and we'll continue to extend political and practical support as the country faces an active conflict."

Earlier, Stoltenberg had said that NATO was sending Russia "a very clear signal that anything similar to what happened in Crimea cannot happen against any NATO country."

NATO leaders in Brussels have indicated concerns about a meeting in Helsinki planned for July 16 between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump shocked some by saying on July 10 that the NATO summit might be more difficult than his talks with Putin.

But after the July 12 emergency meeting of NATO leaders, Trump said that he didn't want Putin to be a security threat to Europe or to the United States, and "that's why we have NATO."

Trump also said he was unable to say what will happen to Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, which was seized by Russia in 2014.

But he refused to rule out U.S. recognition for the annexation by Russia.

"What will happen with Crimea from this point on, that I cannot tell you," Trump said. "But I'm not happy about Crimea."

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