At a Brussels meeting of NATO member nations, US President Donald Trump told the Europeans nations they should double their military spending to 4% of GDP.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on July 12, 2018

Trump made the comments at the latest summit of NATO, the military alliance which includes 29 North American and European nations. The summit is taking place in Brussels on 11 and 12 July.

The declining military spending across Europe has long been a sticking point for Trump and he doubled down on his theme that the other member nations are not pulling their weight in the alliance.

“These countries have to step it up…not over a 10-year period, they have to step it up immediately,” he said.

“We’re protecting Germany, France and everybody. We’re not going to put up with it, we can’t put up with it and it’s inappropriate.”

Trump singled Germany out for particular criticism. The country spends 1.24% of its GDP on defence, much lower than the US figure of 3.5%.

Trump also poured scorn on Germany for being a “captive of Russia” and said it was unfair that Germany purchased oil and gas from Russia while enjoying the safety net of the military alliance funded by US dollars.

The US President returned to the theme on Twitter, writing that NATO member nations “Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”

In a later tweet, he said European countries had raised their spending but it was still insufficient.

In 2017, NATO’s own figures showed only five of the member nations were spending at least 2% of GDP on defence, as they had agreed to do in 2006.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Trump had made the comments.

“President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations,” she said in a statement.

“He picks a fight with everybody”

The NATO summit continues the trend of icy relations between the US under Donald Trump’s leadership and its traditional European allies. In June 2018, he was at odds with the other G7 leaders and left in acrimony without signing the joint agreement. Meanwhile, he has forged closer ties with Vladimir Putin and will meet the Russian President in Helsinki on 16 July 2018.

Retired US General Wesley Clark told CNN Trump does not understand the importance of the NATO alliance.

“If you wanted to do something to deal with China’s unfair trade practices, that’s what NATO is about because it builds the bonds with Europe…instead, he picks a fight with everybody.”

Former US Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns told MSNBC that Trump’s criticisms of NATO were “diplomatic malpractice”.

“It’s just infuriating to watch this happen,” Burns said. “You cannot imagine any American president all the way back 75 years deciding to become the critic-in-chief of NATO. I mean, it’s Orwellian. He’s making our friends out to be our enemies and he’s treating our enemies, like Putin, as our friends.”

Former Presidential candidate John Kerry also weighed in. “I’ve never seen a President say anything as strange or counterproductive as President Trump’s harangue against NATO and Germany,” he wrote.

By the afternoon of the first day of the summit, Trump was in a brighter mood. He insisted he could still work with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying the two had a “very, very good relationship” and were “good partners”.