NATO Chief Thanks Trump for Getting Other NATO Countries to Pay Up

By Holly Kellum

WASHINGTON—NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for putting pressure on the other 28 NATO members to increase their defense contributions since Trump took office, saying that the Allies are now starting to invest more in the alliance “after years of decline.”

“NATO is a strong alliance, but to remain a strong alliance, we have to be a fair alliance,” Stoltenberg said at the White House on April 2. “And therefore, Allies have to invest more in defense. You have a very clear message on that, and your message is having a clear impact.”

He said that all members except for the United States, which was already contributing 4 percent of its GDP, are aiming to increase their defense spending by $100 billion by the end of 2020. This would bring their expenditure close to the 2 percent of GDP goal that all NATO members agreed to in 2014.

Trump made waves during the 2016 campaign when he told The New York Times that if other NATO countries didn’t pay their fair share, he was willing to pull the United States out. America spent $664 billion on NATO in 2016—approximately three-quarters of NATO’s spending that year.

“If we cannot be properly reimbursed for the tremendous cost of our military protecting other countries … with massive wealth. Massive wealth. We’re talking about countries that are doing very well. Then yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, ‘Congratulations, you will be defending yourself,'” Trump said.

Now, he says, the other countries are “catching up.”

“The United States pays for a very big share of NATO—a disproportionate share. But the relationship with NATO has been very good … and I think tremendous progress has been made,” he said during their April 2 meeting.

Stoltenberg, who is in Washington to celebrate NATO’s 70th anniverary, said that since 2016, NATO members have contributed an additional $40 billion.

“We need to do more, and therefore, burden sharing and the defense investments is a top priority for me in all my engagements with different NATO Allies,” he said.

He touched on the threats of ISIS, which Trump has declared a territorial victory over, the war in Afghanistan, and aggression by Russia, which has come into the spotlight recently over its support of socialist Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.

Russia reportedly dropped 100 troops in Venezuela last month, several months after the two countries conducted joint military exercises.

Russia must “get out” of Venezuela, Trump said last week during a meeting with the wife of interim Venezuelan leader Juan Guaidó, stopping short of saying what the United States might do if Russia doesn’t leave.

The United States has also put Russia on notice that it will be terminating the bilateral Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty both countries entered into at the end of the Cold War, accusing Russia of falling out of compliance.

“We see that Russia has violated the INF Treaty, and NATO Allies have supported the U.S. position on that, strongly, throughout the whole process,” Stoltenberg told Trump during their April 2 meeting.

Stoltenberg and the foreign ministers of the NATO countries, including the recently added North Macedonia, will be meeting at the State Department in the coming week to discuss Russia.

“I expect [at that meeting] ministers will endorse a package of Black Sea measures designed to improve the alliance’s deterrence and defense posture in the region,” a senior state department official told reporters, adding that the INF treaty would be another topic.

Stoltenberg is set to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, April 3, and then attend a celebration marking the alliance’s 70-year history at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington where the original North Atlantic Treaty was signed by 12 nations on April 4, 1949.

The National Archives is scheduled to have the original charter on display during the event.