Wary allies await Trump at NATO summit in Brussels

02:03 - Source: CNN
Explaining NATO funding challenges

Story highlights

Trump has backtracked on his claims that NATO is "obsolete"

NATO allies want Trump to make a full commitment to collective defense principle of NATO treaty

CNN —  

When US President Donald Trump attends his first NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday, the Manchester terror attack will be uppermost in the minds of the 28 leaders around the table.

Even before the atrocity, the US President wanted to push NATO allies to commit to a greater role in counter-terrorism and the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Monday’s concert bombing will bring renewed urgency to that discussion.

European NATO leaders are approaching this summit with trepidation. During his campaign for the White House, Trump sent ripples of alarm through the continent when he described the 68-year alliance as “obsolete” because it did not do enough to tackle one of the greatest challenges facing the world: Islamist terrorism.

Though he has backtracked since becoming President by declaring it not obsolete, NATO allies in Europe remain concerned and want him to make a full commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that an attack on one member is deemed to be an attack on all.

READ MORE: Opinion: What NATO needs to hear from Trump

Tied to this concern are the links between the Trump administration and Russia, the country seen as the greatest threat to European stability by NATO allies on this side of the Atlantic.

“It is not unusual for the first summit for a new US President to be a ‘get to know you’ summit – but there is a bit more at stake,” said Sophia Besch, a NATO expert at the Centre for European Reform.

European allies had to take Trump’s “obsolete” comments “very seriously,” Besch said, because Europe depends on America’s defense capabilities and contribution to NATO – US currently provides 22% of the organization’s budget, while Germany gives 15% and the UK provides 10%.

Other NATO members have a target of 2% of GDP on defense spending, but only a minority have met this target. She added: “Trump has never formally committed to Article 5 because he doesn’t accept that Russia may be a threat to Europe.”

If other NATO states can show they are doing more on counter-terrorism and burden-sharing, Trump is expected to commit to the alliance. But the question of relevance still lingers.

READ MORE: Trump at NATO: What to watch