Trump makes new spending demands at NATO summit, blasts Germany

By Eli Stokols

BRUSSELS — President Donald Trump upended the show of unity at NATO’s annual summit Wednesday as many allies had feared, claiming that Germany “is totally controlled by” and “captive to Russia” and inflating his demands that the alliance’s members spend more on defense to an unrealistic level.

The president’s comments in Brussels, especially his harsh and unexpected attack on Germany, Europe’s leading power, overshadowed the alliance’s ostensible business and undercut its ultimate summit declaration of NATO allies’ commitment to shared values and a joint defense against Russian aggression.

His attack on Germany as beholden to Russia, because of a pipeline project, was in keeping with Trump’s practice of accusing others of behavior he has been accused of. It comes after he irked allies last month by suggesting that Russia should be readmitted to the Group of 7 industrialized democracies.

Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, a get-together that has U.S. allies apprehensive given his frequent warm words for the autocrat.

The president’s posture toward close allies has been increasingly and remarkably confrontational this year, especially in comparison to his more conciliatory approach to adversaries, including Russia and North Korea. Even as he flew to Brussels, Trump continued his attacks on NATO allies for not spending more on defense, and after hours of meetings Wednesday he reiterated his disdain in a tweet that began, “What good is NATO … ?”

As his latest remarks filtered back to the United States, even some Republican congressional leaders criticized the president for his slams against Germany and other allies, though others defended him.

Among Democrats, former Secretary of State John F. Kerry called Trump’s statements “disgraceful, destructive,” and the party’s congressional leaders — Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi — in a joint statement said the president’s comments were an “embarrassment” and “another profoundly disturbing signal that the president is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies.”

In closed-door summit meetings, Trump significantly increased his previous demands for NATO allies’ defense spending, saying each of the 29 member nations should budget an amount equal to 4 percent of their economies as measured by their gross domestic product — up from 2 percent.

While NATO in 2014 set the goal that each nation reach the 2 percent level by 2024, Trump told allies to do so immediately. Doubling that, which allies reject, would require that the U.S. — now at 3.5 percent of GDP — increase its military spending as well.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who throughout the day emphasized the steady increases in member nations’ military spending in recent years, giving Trump some credit, later told reporters that the alliance would focus on meeting its current goal.

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