U.S. President Donald Trump unleashed a barrage of rhetoric and threatened to ‘do his own thing’ at the annual NATO Summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
Trump accused its NATO ally Germany of being "a captive of Russia," calling members of the alliance "delinquent" in their defense spending and insisting they increase it "immediately."
"It's like the world has gone crazy this morning," one senior European diplomat told CNN. "Trump's performance was beyond belief."
What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
“I told people that I’d be very unhappy if they did not up their commitments very substantially,” Trump told reporters after the meeting. “Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment. They are going to up it at levels never thought of before.”
But other delegations and NATO officials contradicted the president, saying that he had secured no significant concessions and their defence spending plans remained basically the same as they had been before the NATO summit.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, denied Trump’s claim that NATO powers agreed to increase defence spending beyond previous targets.
The renewed criticism of European NATO members came at a closed session on Thursday morning that had been intended to be confined to non-budgetary issues.
The U.S. president’s outburst led to the scrapping of a series of planned press conferences and bilateral meetings as European leaders struggled to respond. Theresa May and Angela Merkel cancelled press conferences.
NATO member nations committed in 2014 to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024, though only eight countries will reach that goal this year. It was not immediately clear what specific new commitments were made here. Trump said that leaders responded to his demands by agreeing to reach the 2 percent goal soon.
The Washington Post reports that an official who was in the closed-door session said German Chancellor Angela Merkel recommitted to meeting the NATO goal of 2 percent spending by 2024 — an increase from Germany’s current plan of 1.5 percent by that date. But that was nothing more than a restatement of Germany’s existing pledge.
However, hours after news broke of Trump’s statements at the closed-door meeting, he said that U.S. commitment to NATO “remains very strong” and the “fantastic” meeting of the alliance members had demonstrated “a great collegial spirit.” He added: “Nato is much stronger now than it was two days ago.”
Trump’s performance at the NATO comes close on the heels of the G7 summit where he refused to budge from his decision to impose tariffs on steel imports on his European allies.