Trump tells Nato allies to pay their debts
Talks of unending fight against militants in unexpectedly abrupt address to Nato leaders
US president Donald Trump and Britain’s PM Theresa May as Nato leaders gather before the start of their summit in Brussels, May 25th. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
US president Donald Trump on Thursday intensified his accusations that Nato allies were not spending enough on defence and said more attacks such as this week’s bombing in Manchester would take place unless the alliance did more to stop militants.
In unexpectedly abrupt remarks as Nato leaders stood alongside him, Trump also said certain member countries owed “massive amounts of money” to the United States and Nato.
His scripted comments contrasted with Nato’s choreographed efforts to play up the West’s unity by inviting Trump to unveil a memorial to the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the US at the new Nato headquarters.
“We will never waiver in our determination to defeat terrorism and achieve lasting security, prosperity and peace,” Trump said in the speech before a dinner with leaders.
“Terrorism must be stopped or . . . the horror you saw in Manchester and so many other places will continue forever,” Trump said, referring to Monday’s suicide bombing in the northern English city that killed 22 people, including children. Trump called on Nato, an organisation founded on collective defence against the Soviet threat, to include limiting immigration in its tasks as well as fighting terrorism and deterring Russia.
Nato leaders wanted Trump on Thursday to publicly support the military alliance that he had called “obsolete” during his campaign. But he instead returned to an old grievance about Europe’s drop in defence spending since the end of the Cold War.
“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying for their defence,” Trump said, standing by a piece of the wreckage of the Twin Towers.
“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,” Trump said as the other leaders watched.
Praise was always going to be in shorter supply at Nato after Trump’s sharp election campaign criticism of the alliance, which he blamed for not doing more to combat terrorism. Leaders had hoped for more, although a White House official insisted Trump, by being a member of the alliance, supported Nato’s collective defence clause, which stipulates that an attack on one ally is an attack against all.
Before Trump spoke, Belgium’s premier Charles Michel said it was time to “defend the values of the free world” while German chancellor Angela Merkel said Nato was central to the West’s security.
Nato still strived to impress Trump with military bands, allied jets flying overhead and a walk through the new glass-and-steel headquarters, which replaces a leaking, 1960s prefab structure.
Trump, a real estate magnate, called the building “beautiful” and joked that he did not dare ask how much it cost. But it was left to the Nato Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, to carry through most of the planned pomp and to try to hammer home the message of unity.
“Nato is more than a club, more than an organisation. Nato embodies the unique bond between Europe and North America,” Stoltenberg said. “As we raise our flags today, our alliance stands strong united and resolute,” he said.
In one nod to Trump, Nato leaders are due to agree later on Thursday for the Western military bloc to join the US-led, 68-nation coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.