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Trump reaffirms Nato ties
[BRUSSELS] After two days of haphazard deal making with European allies over military spending and throwing some of his closest diplomatic relationships into disarray, President Donald Trump pledged Thursday that the US commitment to Nato "remains very strong" and that his allies had agreed to increase levels of military spending "like they never have before."
Mr Trump, speaking at an impromptu news conference at Nato headquarters in Brussels after he ignited a crisis behind closed doors over burden-sharing within the alliance, dismissed any concern that his relationship with Russia was too cozy or that his approach to his allies was too harsh.
Hailing himself, again, as a "stable genius," he took "total credit" for persuading his allies to increase military spending beyond established markers - a claim that was nearly immediately undercut by at least one European leader. Mr Trump spoke for more than a half-hour while flanked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, his national security adviser.
"I told people I'd be very unhappy if they didn't up their commitments very substantially," said Mr Trump. Nato officials had no immediate comment.
Mr Trump griped that the United States shouldered "probably 90 per cent of the cost of Nato" - the number is actually closer to 67 per cent of all Nato military spending, but that includes global spending, not just Europe.
The United States pays 22 per cent of the Nato budget itself. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, of the US$603 billion the United States spends on defense, only about US$31 billion goes to Europe.
Nato members have pledged to aim to spend at least 2 per cent of gross domestic product on military spending by 2024, but Mr Trump, after berating alliance countries for failing to meet a target that they were not obligated to meet for six more years, then abruptly said Wednesday night the figure should be 4 per cent of GDP. That, he said, was closer to the correct number.
Mr Trump also answered questions about his meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, scheduled for Monday in Helsinki.
The president said he would discuss violations to a treaty on nuclear weapons, as well as possibly stopping military exercises in the Baltics, but he evaded a question about whether he would recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.