U.S. President Donald Trump told NATO leaders on Wednesday Trump they should raise their defence spending to 4 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP), doubling the group’s current goal of two percent.
This was not well received as NATO allies shrugged off the demand as part and parcel of Trump’s brash push for allies to spend more on their own defence at a summit in Brussels, with a quip from the alliance’s chief that it should aim to meet its goal before reaching further.
“We should first get to 2 pct,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, adding that eight of the 29 allies were meeting that target, while others had a plan to do – turning a leaf on years of defence budget cuts.
Striking a strident tone at the summit, Trump’s aspirational target of 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) was above the United States own spending on defence.
The United States, the world’s biggest military power, spent some 3.57 percent on defence last year, according to NATO figures.
A White House spokeswoman said his remarks came as he was urging leaders to increase their outlays on defense and were not a formal proposal.
“He suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 percent of their GDP on defence spending, but that they increase it to 4 percent,” Sarah Sanders told reporters.
“Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations.”
A source close to French President Emmanuel Macron also played down Trump’s words as rhetoric, saying “it is not a new demand.”
Unperturbed, President Trump later went on to tweet that NATO countries must immediately pay 2 percent of their country’s economic output for defense, tying the issue to trade and energy.
“What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?” Trump wrote. “The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025,” he added.