President Donald Trump has told his NATO allies in Brussels that all members of the alliance must pay their fair share of defense spending.
“Massive amounts of money” were owed, President Trump said, voicing a long-held US concern that others are not paying enough.
However, NATO states’ contributions are voluntary and a target of spending 2% of GDP on defense is only a guideline.
Again condemning May 22 bombing in Manchester, Donald Trump said terrorism must be “stopped in its tracks”.
The president called for a moment of silence in memory of the 22 adults and children killed in the “savage attack”.
Before visiting NATO’s new HQ, which was formally opened at May 25 gathering, Donald Trump met several EU leaders for the first time, including France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron.
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Donald Trump’s first foreign tour as president will end on the Italian island of Sicily at a G7 summit on May 26.
According to NATO’s 2016 annual report, only five countries met the 2% defense spending target – the US, the UK, Greece, Poland and Estonia.
The alliance hopes that all 28 member-states will reach this target by 2024.
“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,” Donald Trump said.
Germany spent 1.2% on defense in that period, but Berlin argues that its spending on development aid also contributes to international security.
Donald Trump has been criticized for his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. and his administration is embroiled in allegations of close ties with Russian interests.
However, at NATO HQ, Donald Trump said: “The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration, as well as on threats from Russia and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders.”
There was some concern that President Trump had not mentioned Article Five, NATO’s commitment to mutual defense in the event of an attack on a member, but an unnamed White House official told Reuters that the president stood united with other NATO leaders.
Earlier, European Council President Donald Tusk said after meeting Donald Trump: “I’m not 100% sure we can say that we have a common position… on Russia although when it comes to the conflict on Ukraine we were on the same line.”
And when Time magazine chose the Germanchancellor as its person of the year in 2015 instead of him, Donald Trump said she was “ruining Germany”. However, he has also said in the past she is a leader he greatly respects.
Donald Trump also has German ancestry. His grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1885 at the age of 16 from the town of Kallstadt, about 30 miles south-west of Frankfurt.
For her part, Angela Merkel has criticized President Trump’s controversial travel ban that targets the citizens of several mainly Muslim countries.
In her first phone conversation with President Trump after he took office, she explained that the Geneva Convention obliges signatories, including the US, to take in refugees of war on humanitarian grounds.
Angela Merkel also had a strong relationship with President Barack Obama. His final call to a foreign leader as president was said to be to Angela Merkel, thanking her for her leadership.
This first meeting comes as Angela Merkel prepares for an election battle later in the year, seeking a fourth term as chancellor.