Tuesday, 18 September, 2018

Trump ups North Atlantic Treaty Organisation contribution target as allies lag on defense spending

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit Donald Trump has said his upcoming summit with Putin"may be easier than his imminent visit with Theresa May. But will it? Credit Evan Vucci AP
Charles Bowen | 12 July, 2018, 03:40

President Donald Trump branded Germany a "captive of Russia" for its support of a Baltic Sea gas pipeline deal this morning (July 11).

The President spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron earlier Wednesday, urging the European leaders to pay their "fair share" towards common defense spending.

She recalled her own youth in Soviet-dominated East Germany and said she was "very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany".

"And I think that's very inappropriate".

"During the president's remarks today at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit, he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2% of their G.D.P. on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4%", White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement to reporters.

His demand that they raise their contributions to 4 percent came as a surprise during the first meeting of this week's Brussels summit.

Trump said Germany had shut down coal and nuclear power plants on environmental grounds, increasing dependence, like much of the rest of Europe, on Russian gas. NATO acknowledges an "over-reliance" on the U.S. What NATO partners dispute is Trump's repeated suggestion that the U.S. gets little in return for its commitment to defend member countries if threatened.

Despite Russia's semi-pariah status among some Americans and US allies, the Kremlin has always been trying to arrange a summit, betting that Putin and Trump will get on well and stop a sharp downwards spiral in bilateral ties.

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A joint declaration said: "We are committed to improving the balance of sharing the costs and responsibilities of alliance membership".

"We are protecting Germany, we are protecting France, we are protecting all of these countries and then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russian Federation where they are paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russian Federation". "After the attacks of 9/11, we called on Germany's leadership to send troops to fight with us in Afghanistan".

"They have to step it up immediately".

The defense minister agreed with Trump about defense spending.

But in Russian Federation, where the political system is obsessed with hierarchy, status and displays of raw power, Putin has "already got his victory", said Andrey Kortunov, head of RIAC, a foreign policy think-tank close to the Foreign Ministry.

Trump's White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders confirmed the ask to reporters, claiming that it was not a new position for the US president.

Plans for a new gas pipeline that would bypass Ukraine, the Nord Stream 2, have been in the works for years, but the project remains controversial.

Leaders will be keen to hear more about Trump's military approach to Afghanistan, which he revamped last August to include a surge in air strikes to force Taliban militants to the negotiating table.

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