Leaders of the member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will meet for the second and final day of their annual summit in Brussels still reeling from U.S. President Donald Trump’s tongue-lashing of both the alliance and Germany, it’s wealthiest European member.
The president began his day tweeting.
NATO leaders will try Thursday to move beyond U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands for higher defense spending, and focus on ending the long war in Afghanistan. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg wants leaders to agree to fund Afghan security forces until 2024, despite public fatigue in Western countries about their involvement in the conflict.
During a breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday’s opening day, Trump accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia for allowing Russian energy company Gazprom to construct the Nord Stream 2 pipeline through its waters.
He also raised a longstanding U.S. concern that Europe increase its share of spending on defense, describing the current situation as “disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States.”
“The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough,” complained Trump. “This has been going on for decades, it’s disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States.” Trump also took credit for beginning a reversal of declining defense spending among NATO members.
He took to Twitter later in the day to urge NATO members to immediately contribute 2 percent of their GDP to the alliance.
During the NATO summit, Trump is also holding an unspecified number of one-on-one meetings with other European leaders, according to White House officials.
Observers say those leaders are certain to be anxious after the U.S. president berated his fellow leaders on trade at the recent Group of 7 summit in Canada.
Following the discussions in Belgium, Trump heads to Britain, where he is to be hosted by British Prime Minister Theresa May, who suddenly finds herself embroiled in domestic political upheaval stemming from intra-party disagreement over terms for the country’s exit from the EU, known as Brexit.
Trump’s itinerary will largely keep him out of central London, where significant protests are expected.
After visits to England and Scotland, where the president owns two golf resorts, Trump will go to Helsinki for a highly anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all,” relative to the anticipated contentious encounters with America’s traditional European allies, Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
VOA’s White House correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this report.