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Trump Praises, Defends NATO Alliance at Summit

At NATO’s 70th anniversary summit in London, President Donald Trump praised the organization’s leadership and defended the alliance against criticism by the president of France.

In the morning, Trump met with the alliance’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, for a working breakfast. Speaking after the meeting, Trump praised Stoltenberg for “doing a fantastic job.”

Trump said that the contribution of NATO allies to the bloc’s budget had been decreasing over the past 20 years, and that a continued decrease would have a detrimental effect on the organization.

He also said that the United States was spending much more on defense than other allies, amounting to 4 percent to 4.3 percent of GDP. By contrast, ”Germany is paying 1 to 1.2 percent … of a much smaller GDP,” Trump said.

NATO protects all, regardless of how much they pay, the president noted.

While, in 2014, all NATO members agreed that each should spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, but not all member nations have complied with that requirement.

Since 2016, “Canada and European allies have added $130 billion more to their defense budgets, and this number will increase to 400 billion U.S. dollars by 2024,” which makes NATO stronger, Stoltenberg said.

New Directions for NATO

NATO today is stronger and able to adapt to the changing world and “address a wide range of other issues, including the fight against terrorism, arms control, our relationship with Russia, the rise of China,” Stoltenberg said. “NATO is the most successful alliance in history because we have been able to change when the world is changing.”

While “historically, NATO has been focused on the Soviet Union and Russia,” and although it isn’t new, the rise of China and its effects on NATO’s security must also be addressed, he said.

“China is now the second-largest defense spender in the world, after the United States,” Stoltenberg said. “[China] recently displayed a lot of new advanced military weapons systems, including new intercontinental ballistic missiles able to reach the whole of Europe and the United States … and they also deployed hundreds of intermediate-range missiles that would have violated the INF Treaty, if China had been part of that treaty,” Stoltenberg said.

While NATO has no plans regarding the South China Sea, China is moving closer to the NATO region by developing a presence in the Arctic region, Africa, cyberspace, and also heavily in European infrastructure, he said.

When speaking about Russia, Trump said that “NATO should always be in dialogue with Russia … [and] can have a very good relationship with Russia.”

Stoltenberg added that “we will strive for a better relationship with Russia. But we do that based on what we call the dual-track approach by NATO. We have to be strong and we have to provide a credible deterrence and defense, combined with dialogue.”

Both Trump and Stoltenberg see the importance of focusing on arms control and would like to see progress on it with Russia, as well as find a way to include China in such agreements.

Macron and Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) France’s President Emmanuel Macron talk during their meeting at Winfield House, London on Dec. 3, 2019. (Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images)

Is NATO Suffering ‘Brain Death’?

In the afternoon, Trump met with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Early last month, Macron criticized NATO and described it as suffering from “brain death” in an interview with The Economist.

In responding to a reporter’s question, Trump said Macron’s comment was unfair to “a lot of different forces, including the man that does a very good job in running NATO.”

Macron stood by his statement, but agreed with Trump that “that the U.S. overinvested, decade after decade, and it is No. 1, by far [in defense spending].”

France is investing 1.9 percent of its GDP in defense and is boosting its spending.

Macron said of NATO that he needs “strategy clarification.”

“We have to put money, we have to put soldiers. We have to be clear on the fundamentals of what NATO should be. And this is not the case today. What about peace in Europe? I want clarification about that,” he said.

Macron also expressed concern about the termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which put at risk Germany, France, and a lot of European countries, that are now exposed to “new missiles coming from Russia.”

Macron also directed criticism at NATO member Turkey.

He said that the alliance objective is to “protect our partners against external threats. And France will do it, and we will have full solidarity vis-à-vis Eastern and Northern states in Europe.”

However, Turkey is now “fighting against those who fight with us, who fought with us, shoulder to shoulder, against ISIS. And sometimes they work with ISIS forces. This is an issue, and this is a strategic issue,” said Macron.

Trump said: “We have a very good relationship with Turkey. … We pulled our soldiers out. We said you can patrol your own border now. … We put some of our soldiers around the oil, where we have captured the oil.”

Macron also said that they “have a lot of cooperation with Turkey on security, trade, migration,” but “we need clarification from the Turkish side.”

“How it is possible to be a member of the Alliance to work with our office, to buy our materials, to be integrated, and to buy S-400 [missile systems] from Russians? Technically, it is not possible,” said Macron.

Macron added that Turkey would like to “block all the declarations of this summit if we do not agree about their definition of terrorist organizations—qualifying [the Kurdish] YPG and the others as terrorist groups, which is not our definition.”

Trump responded by saying that he would meet with Turkey’s president to discuss that and also would look into sanctioning Turkey for purchasing the S-400 missile systems.

NATO Leaders Summit Takes Place In The UK. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive at number 10 Downing Street for a reception on December 3, 2019 in London, England. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)
NATO Leaders Summit Takes Place In The UK. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive at No. 10 Downing Street for a reception on Dec. 3, 2019 in London, England. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

In the evening, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump participated in a reception for NATO summit leaders, hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace and also attended by The Duchess of Cambridge.