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04th-Apr-2019

Trump urges even more defense spending by NATO allies

By

AP, Washington :
President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised NATO countries for increasing their financial contributions to the Western alliance, but he hounded them to pay even more, saying America still shoulders a disproportionate share of the cost of protecting Europe.
The president met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who was in Washington to mark the 70th anniversary of the organization formed to counter Russian aggression.
The two leaders had kind words for one another. But in the past, Trump has called NATO "obsolete" and suggested he might pull the U.S. out of the alliance if member nations didn't significantly boost their defense spending.
"We've worked together on getting some of our allies to pay their fair share," Trump told reporters. "At some point, it's going to have to go higher."
Trump took credit for the increased spending. However, spending by the 29 NATO countries, which dropped after the end of the Cold War, has actually been rising since 2014 - before Trump took office.
"Prior to our getting here, NATO's spending was going way, way down," he said. "It was just a one-way road down. And since I became president ... it's been a rocket ship up, and we have to keep it that way."
After Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, member countries agreed to boost defense budgets and "move toward" spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. The U.S. spends about 3.4% of its GDP on defense.
Since Trump took office, European allies and Canada have added $41 billion to their defense budgets. By the end of next year, this will rise to $100 billion, Stoltenberg said. Germany, however, remains the main target of Trump's ire because it now plans to spend 1.5% by 2024, which is lower than the 2% guideline.
"Germany is not paying their fair share," Trump said. "I have a great feeling for Germany, but they're not paying what they should be paying. We're paying for a big proportion of NATO, which is basically protecting Europe."
Stoltenberg has said that the 2% guideline was not invented by the United States and was a target the 29 allies set in 2014 before Trump took office. But he thanked Trump for his "strong commitment to NATO" and for his leadership in getting member nations to increase their commitments.
"The allies are really stepping up," Stoltenberg said in an interview later with The Associated Press.
"The clear message from President Trump has helped - is having a real impact. And this is about doing what NATO allies have pledged to do. We still have a long way to go - much to do - but we have really seen very strong progress in defense spending from NATO allies."