Terrorism, migration and threats allegedly coming from Russia have been named by US President Donald Trump as the main issues demanding NATO’s focus, as he spoke at his first meeting with the military alliance as America’s leader.
“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration, as well as threats from Russia, and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” Trump said on Thursday, speaking in Brussels at a ceremonial unveiling of a memorial to the victims of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.
Trump is on a two-day visit to the Belgian capital, Brussels, as part of his first foreign tour this week.
As he meets NATO leaders and other EU officials in Brussels for what’s being described as informal talks, there was an apparent disagreement on the alleged “Russian threat.”
“I am not 100 percent sure that we can say today – we meaning Mr. President and myself – that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia,” EU Council President Donald Tusk told the media earlier on Thursday.
After listing what he deems the major threats to NATO, Trump switched to the topic of defense spending, saying had been “very, very direct with [NATO] Secretary [Jens] Stoltenberg and members of the alliance in saying that members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.”
Accusing 23 NATO member states of “still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense,” Trump reiterated his stance on financial contributions.
“Over the last eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined,” he said.
NATO was short of funding by $119 billion in 2016 because of the member states that failed to contribute the agreed 2 percent of GDP to allied defense, Trump claimed.
Ahead of the visit, the new US administration called on the military alliance to play a more significant role in fighting terrorism. Currently, several NATO allies are part of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group, but the organization itself has kept its distance from the conflict in the Middle East.