US President Donald Trump has told his Nato allies in Brussels that all members of the alliance must pay their fair share of defence spending. “Massive amounts of money” were owed, he said, voicing a long-held US concern that others are not paying enough. But Nato’s current spending target of 2% of GDP on defence is not due to be met until 2024. Again condemning Monday’s bombing in Manchester, Mr Trump said terrorism must be “stopped in its tracks”.
He called for a moment of silence in memory of the 22 adults and children killed in the “savage attack”. Mr Trump also warned about the risk posed by uncontrolled immigration and the threat posed by Russia. “Terrorism must be stopped in its tracks or the horror you saw in Manchester, and so many other places, will continue forever,” he said. “You have thousands and thousands of people pouring into our various countries and spreading throughout, and in many cases we have no idea who they are. We must be tough, we must be strong and we must be vigilant.” Before visiting Nato headquarters, Mr Trump met several EU leaders for the first time, including France’s new President, Emmanuel Macron.
“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defence,” Mr Trump said. “This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and [from] not paying in those past years.” According to Nato’s 2016 annual report, only five countries met the 2% target – the US, the UK, Greece, Poland and Estonia.
By contrast, Germany spent 1.2% on defence – but Berlin argues that its spending on development aid also contributes to international security. The US has long criticised fellow Nato countries for spending less on defence than the agreed figure of 2% of national output. Nato has now agreed to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamist militants, particularly so-called Islamic State (IS), but France and Germany insist the move is mostly symbolic. Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Nato states would contribute more in terms of information sharing and air-to-air refuelling.
“This will send a strong political message of Nato’s commitment to the fight against terrorism and also improve our co-ordination within the coalition – but it does not mean that Nato will engage in combat operations,” he said. After meeting Mr Trump earlier on Thursday, European Council President Donald Tusk said they had agreed on “many areas” but had differences over Russia. “I’m not 100% sure we can say that we have a common position, a common opinion on Russia, although when it comes to the conflict on Ukraine we were on the same line,” he said. Mr Trump has been criticised for his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration is embroiled in allegations of close ties with Russian interests. Mr Tusk stressed the “fundamental Western values like freedom, human rights, respect for human dignity” at the heart of relations with the US.—Agencies