WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Thursday that NATO countries who do not spend 2 percent of their GDP on the common defense will be “dealt with,” singling out Germany as one of the nations not contributing enough to the Atlantic Alliance.
At a White House Cabinet meeting attended by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump enumerated the countries he said had paid what “they’re supposed to be paying,” but added “we have some that don’t and, well, they’ll be dealt with.”
The president said that Germany “has not contributed what it should be contributing and it’s a very big beneficiary,” going on to remark that “In particular Germany must demonstrate leadership in the alliance by addressing its longstanding shortfall in defense contributions.”
Stoltenberg, meanwhile, thanked Trump for his “leadership” in pressuring NATO nations to fulfill their commitments to allocate 2 percent of their GDP to the alliance.
“Your leadership on defense spending has really helped to make a difference,” the NATO chief said, adding that “It is impacting allies because now all allies are increasing defense spending. ... No allies are cutting their budgets.”
Trump said that much work remains to be done, but billions of dollars had been collected from countries who were not paying, or who were not paying a “fair” proportion.
The president also reaffirmed his commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which establishes mutual defense in the event of an attack on any of the nations in the alliance, a concept that he had avoided clearly backing during his visit to Brussels in May 2017, which sparked unease within the defense organization.
Trump’s meeting with Stoltenberg is aimed at preparing for the July 11-12 summit of NATO leaders in Brussels.
The president has complained that since he took office the US has spent too much on NATO and he repeated that claim three weeks ago when he received German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.
Merkel, in turn, said that although Germany has not gotten up to the 2 percent spending level it is the second-largest contributor of troops to NATO and has made many advances in recent years although she added that perhaps from Trump’s perspective this progress may not have been fast enough.