Donald Trump hailed a personal victory at a Nato summit on Thursday, saying allies had sharply increased defence spending commitments after he provoked a crisis session with a tirade at European leaders.
French President Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, countered the claim, saying Nato’s spending commitments remained the same.
Interacting with reporters after the second day of the Brussels meeting, when Nato leaders huddled with him to try to defuse a crisis, Trump said: “I told people that I would be very unhappy if they didn’t up their commitments... I let them know that I was extremely unhappy.”
But he added that the talks had ended on the best of terms. “It all came together at the end. It was a little tough for a little while.”
Officials at the meeting said Trump had shocked many present and broke with diplomatic protocol by addressing German Chancellor Merkel by her first name, telling her: “Angela, you need to do something about this”. Most officials and the invited leaders of non-Nato Afghanistan and Georgia were ushered out.
Others in the room denied a suggestion that Trump had threatened to quit the alliance. When asked about that, Trump said he believed he could do that without Congressional approval but it was “not necessary”.
Instead, he said, the other 28 allies had agreed to increase their defence spending more quickly to meet a Nato target of 2 per cent of their national income within a few years. The current commitment is to reach 2 per cent by 2024 but with get-out terms that would allow some to stretch it out to 2030. Trump stressed that Nato’s budget had been unfair to the US but now he was sure it would be fair. Allies would be increasing spending by $33 billion or more, he added. He also said he thought spending of 4 per cent on defence — similar to the US level — would be the right level.
But, Macron, who was also in Brussels, said: “As with all our summits, sometimes the corridors, comments and tweets take on more importance than what is negotiated, said or endorsed by heads of state... I believe only one thing: the communique we have approved...”
He further said: “the communique is clear: it reaffirms the commitment to 2 per cent (of GDP on defence spending) for 2024.”