Brussels, Belgium. President Donald Trump aggressively challenged NATO Thursday to spend more on their own defense, putting the alliance under exceptional pressure to become thrifty, accountable and newly relevant.
“Twenty-three of the 28 nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” Trump said. “This is not fair to the people and the taxpayers of the United States.”
The 27 other leaders looked on in awkward silence as Trump suggested most NATO countries were freeloaders not paying their share for military protection. The other leaders are divided over his spending demands, as well as over how much they should devote to worry over a president, they think will not be in office next year at this time.
The threat of Islamic extremism remained a uniting theme as the specter of Monday’s Manchester concert bombing loomed over the summit at the alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels. Many analysts think the timing of the attack is related to the summitt meeting and should be part of the broader picture of understanding NATO now getting into the anti-terrorist business.
“That attack shows why it’s important for the international community and NATO to do more about the fight against terrorism,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said upon arrival.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that joining the American led anti-ISIS coalition “will send a strong political message of NATO’s commitment to the fight against terrorism and also improve our coordination within the coalition.”
Stoltenberg underlined that it does not mean that NATO will engage in combat operations, which experts point out is demonstrably a lie, given NATO fights daily currently in anti-terrorist actions inside Afghanistan and Syria.
As part of its efforts to respond to Trump’s demand to do more to fight terrorism, NATO will also set up a counter-terrorism intelligence cell to improve information-sharing.It will notably focus on so-called foreign fighters who travel from Europe to train or fight with extremists in Iraq, Syria or NATO friendly lands like Ukraine.