Trump sets NATO allies’ military spending target to 4 percent

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) looks on as US President Donald Trump speaks to other leaders as they pose for a family photo at the Park of the Cinquantenaire during the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. (Reuters)

NATO members agreed in 2014 to spend at least two percent of their GDP on defense by 2024. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, “We should first get to two percent,” adding that eight of the 29 allies were meeting that target.

US President Donald Trump told NATO leaders on Wednesday they should increase their defence spending to four percent of their country’s economic output, double the group’s current goal of two percent.

NATO allies shrugged off the demand as part and parcel of Trump’s brash push for allies to spend more on their own defence at a summit in Brussels, with a quip from the alliance’s chief that it should aim to meet its goal before reaching further.

“We should first get to two percent,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, adding that eight of the 29 allies were meeting that target, while others had a plan to do so – turning a leaf on years of defence budget cuts.

Striking a strident tone at the summit, Trump’s aspirational target of four percent of gross domestic product (GDP) was above the United States’ own spending on defence.

The US, the world’s biggest military power, spent some 3.57 percent on defence last year, according to NATO figures.

TRT World’s Simon McGregor-Wood reports.

Trump-Merkel meeting

Trump said he had a “great meeting” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a NATO summit on Wednesday, hours after he fiercely criticised German policy on defence spending and gas imports from Russia.

The tone of their remarks contrasted with an earlier breakfast between Trump and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, when the Republican president said Germany’s reliance on Russian energy left it “in the control” of Moscow and Merkel later referred to her youth in Soviet-run East Germany to insist Berlin was now fully sovereign.

“We’re having a great meeting. We’re discussing military expenditure … talking about trade,” Trump told reporters who were allowed into the meeting room.

“We have a very, very good relationship with the chancellor. We have a tremendous relationship with Germany,” he added, saying he had raised his concerns about a new gas pipeline planned from Russia to Germany.

Merkel, speaking through an interpreter, said the meeting was an “opportunity to have an exchange about economic developments … and also the future of our trade relations.”

Merkel said it was very important to have such exchanges like the meeting she and Trump were having because “after all, we are partners. We are good partners, and we wish to continue to cooperate in the future.

‘Decisive pressure’ on North Korea

NATO leaders called on all nations to maintain “decisive pressure” on North Korea, including by fully implementing United Nations sanctions, to persuade it to give up its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The allies also expressed concern about Iran’s intensified missile tests and said the alliance was committed “to permanently ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme remains peaceful.”

The summit declaration signed by the 29 NATO leaders reiterated the alliance’s full support for the goal of “complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”

It welcomed recent talks with North Korea by the leaders of South Korea and the United States “as a contribution towards reaching the final fully verified denuclearisation of [North Korea] in a peaceful manner.”

“We call upon [North Korea] to fully implement its international obligations; to eliminate its nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities and ballistic missiles, and abandon all related programmes,” the statement said.

It also called on North Korea to return to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies