U.S. President Donald Trump lauded “tremendous” new national security investments made by NATO member states Tuesday after years of criticizing the alliance for what he says is unfair burden sharing.
“Tremendous progress has been made,” Trump said as he hosted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House. “NATO is much stronger because of that progress.”
The president has long been hostile to NATO, arguing Washington shoulders an unfair amount of the alliance’s defense spending. NATO members have committed to spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, but most fall short of that goal.
Member states, however, are on track to increase defense budgets by $100 billion by the end of 2020.
Trump took credit for the spending bump, saying he is “very proud” of the boost.
“We’re very proud of what’s happened over the last couple of years with respect to the relationship and to NATO,” Trump said. “A tremendous amount of additional money was invested by others nations, which was a fair thing from the standpoint of the United States, and a lot more money will be invested.”
Stoltenberg thanked Trump for his efforts on burden sharing, saying that while some member states had been for years cutting defense budgets “allies have now started to invest more.”
“That helps and it proves that NATO is a strong alliance. We have increased the readiness of our forces. We have stepped up in our joint fight against terrorism, and we are investing more,” he said.
Trump has sought to undercut the importance of international alliances, including NATO, and called the mutual-security organization “obsolete” while campaigning in 2016.
He backtracked on that comment in his first year in office amid pushback from key Republicans who continue to defend the alliance’s worth.
Stoltenberg is slated Wednesday to address a joint session of Congress as the alliance rounds out its 70th anniversary. He will then participate in a gathering of NATO foreign ministers which will begin later that day and conclude Thursday.