U.S. President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met in Washington on Thursday amid conflicts between the United States and its European allies in the West’s key defense organization.
Trump last week rebuffed opposition from European leaders and withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 international accord curbing Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Three European signatories to the pact — Britain, France and Germany — are continuing their support for the restraints on Tehran, even as Trump has contended the agreement does nothing to thwart Iran’s ballistic missile tests or its military advances in the Middle East.
“We are working on finding a practical solution” about the Iran deal, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, said earlier this week. “We are talking about solutions to keep the deal alive.”
In addition, Trump has imposed tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum imports, including Europe, although he later exempted the 28-nation European Union until June 1.
Early in his presidency, Trump was a vocal critic of NATO, the defense alliance formed at the end of World War II to counter Russian aggression. He contended that other member countries have not been meeting NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of their individual countries’ national economic output on defense.
On Thursday, however, Trump thanked Stoltenberg for pushing other NATO members to allocate more of their budgets for defense.
Defense spending has increased in some NATO countries, but the alliance said currently only Greece, Estonia, Britain, Poland, Romania and the U.S. among NATO’s 28 members meet the 2 percent threshold. Several other countries are close.