Now playing
00:57
Trump: NATO no longer obsolete
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
PHOTO: Richard Drew/AP
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Now playing
02:17
Trump claim to world leaders met with laughter
Trump laughing with me
PHOTO: CNN
Trump laughing with me
Now playing
01:38
Trump: World leaders were laughing with me
PHOTO: CNN Illustration/Getty Images
Now playing
01:59
Trump warns about doing business with Iran
President Donald Trump talks on the phone aboard Air Force One during a flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address a joint gathering of House and Senate Republicans, Thursday, January 26, 2017. This was the Presidentâs first Trip aboard Air Force One. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
PHOTO: Shealah Craighead/White House Photo/Getty Images
President Donald Trump talks on the phone aboard Air Force One during a flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address a joint gathering of House and Senate Republicans, Thursday, January 26, 2017. This was the Presidentâs first Trip aboard Air Force One. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Now playing
01:36
WH stops summarizing calls with world leaders
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:32
Clarke: Trump diminishes US role and influence
US President Donald Trump and Russia
PHOTO: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:59
Trump: We are all to blame for Russia relations
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 08:  Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on before speaking to members of the media during a visit to AppDirect on February 8, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Trudeau is visiting several cities in the U.S.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on before speaking to members of the media during a visit to AppDirect on February 8, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Trudeau is visiting several cities in the U.S. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:57
WaPo: Trump admits he gave Trudeau false info
US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron hold a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 24, 2018. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron hold a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 24, 2018. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:44
Trump has 'terrible' phone call with Macron
PHOTO: photo illustration: getty images/shutterstock/cnnmoney
Now playing
01:17
WH confirms Trump, Putin discussed meeting
travel ban trump then and now orig nws_00002328.jpg
travel ban trump then and now orig nws_00002328.jpg
Now playing
01:23
Trump's travel ban then and now
PHOTO: ABC News
Now playing
01:01
Trump touts trust with Kim in TV interview
PHOTO: Kevin Lim/THE STRAITS TIMES
Now playing
02:11
Memorable moments from the Singapore summit
TOPSHOT - A vendor picks up a 100 yuan note above a newspaper featuring a photo of US president-elect Donald Trump, at a news stand in Beijing on November 10, 2016.
The world
PHOTO: GREG BAKER/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A vendor picks up a 100 yuan note above a newspaper featuring a photo of US president-elect Donald Trump, at a news stand in Beijing on November 10, 2016. The world's second-largest economy is US president-elect Donald Trump's designated bogeyman, threatening it on the campaign trail with tariffs for stealing American jobs, but analysts say US protectionism could create opportunities for Beijing. / AFP / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:48
US trade with China, explained
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:07
Trump announces withdrawal from Iran deal
US President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017.   / AFP / EPA POOL / JIM LO SCALZO        (Photo credit should read JIM LO SCALZO/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: JIM LO SCALZO/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017. / AFP / EPA POOL / JIM LO SCALZO (Photo credit should read JIM LO SCALZO/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:46
Trump's foreign policy: One thing to know

Story highlights

This meeting was Trump's first face-to-face meeting with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO leader

Trump's position on NATO has been the subject of consternation for European leaders

(CNN) —  

President Donald Trump took credit Wednesday for steering NATO’s focus toward terrorism, declaring the military alliance is no longer outdated after castigating its focus and financing on the campaign trail last year.

“I said it was obsolete,” Trump declared at the White House. “It’s no longer obsolete.”

The about-face came during a joint appearance with NATO’s secretary general in the East Room. Trump’s original stance, which he voiced as a candidate, had caused unease among some US allies, who worried a retreat from NATO would embolden Russia’s territorial ambitions in Europe.

Trump said Wednesday he’d changed views after NATO’s leaders assured him the group would turn its attention to combating groups like ISIS going forward.

“The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism,” Trump said. “I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change and now they do fight terrorism.”

RELATED: Trump salutes NATO with vow of strong support

Trump’s allegation that NATO just recently began combating terror isn’t accurate; the alliance has played a central role in Afghanistan for more than a decade. Its involvement in that war came after the United States invoked NATO’s Article 5, the provision calling for collective defense, after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Since then, NATO troops have deployed to Afghanistan by the thousands in a bid to stabilize the country and combat terror groups based there.

Member countries have also pushed for better intelligence sharing to combat terrorism, which NATO has sought to facilitate through a new Joint Intelligence and Security Division.

That addition, however, came in the middle of last year, and NATO said then that the new division wasn’t prompted by Trump’s campaign rhetoric, but rather a desire among members to better share information after a string of terror attacks in Europe.

In an interview on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey said he welcomed the change as Trump squaring “his philosophy with reality, but added that he thought Trump’s frequent shifts were “undermining our role on the world stage.”

“It doesn’t have any coherence as a foreign policy whatsoever, and it continues to look like they’re just making it up week to week,” Markey said.

The meeting Wednesday was Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO leader. The two will meet again in May when Trump travels to the group’s headquarters in Brussels for talks.

Trump has long insisted the US carries too much of the burden within the defense collective, and had angrily lambasted other nations for not spending sufficient amounts on defense. Since taking office, however, Trump has softened his language, saying he’ll maintain US commitment to NATO while reiterating its member nations must step up their military financing.

RELATED - Germany’s defense minister to Trump: No, we don’t owe NATO money

“In facing our common challenges, we must also ensure that NATO members meet their financial obligations and pay what they owe. Many have not been doing that,” Trump said Wednesday. “If other countries pay their fair share instead of relying on the United States to make up the difference, we will all be much more secure and our partnership will be made that much stronger.”

Trump’s position on NATO has been the subject of consternation for European leaders, who worried his dismissals of the alliance could encourage Russia, which NATO has worked to check through troop mobilizations on the bloc’s eastern edge.

Trump has voiced support for the group since taking office, however, and Wednesday attempted to assure European nations fearful of Russian territorial aggression.

“They are going to have to fear nothing, ultimately,” he said. “Right now there is a fear. There are problems, certainly problems, but ultimately I hope that there won’t be a fear and there won’t be problems and the world can get along. That would be the ideal situation.”

RELATED - How NATO is funded and who pays what