Trump attends NATO summit
Asked how the first day at the NATO summit was going, President Donald Trump said it was “very good.”
"Very good. Beautiful. Really well," Trump said, as he and first lady Melania Trump walked into dinner.
He added that he's having a “very good time at NATO.”
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker raised deep concerns that Trump is trying to “tear down” NATO and “punch our friends in the nose.”
While he said he supports the notion of getting NATO countries to pay more, he told CNN that Trump’s rhetoric is “damaging to us.”
“Sometimes the rhetoric to me is just damaging to us — and damaging to others unnecessarily ... But I think there are ways of communicating with our friends ... And sometimes it feels like we punch our friends in the nose and hold our hand out to people who are working strongly against us like Putin and Russia.”
Asked if Trump is damaging the US around the world, Corker said: “It’s palpable the concern people have as to our reliability ... I believe that America’s leadership around the world has made the world safer for Americans and has made the world a better place ... And when I see that leadership, uh, diminishing, and us trying to break apart alliances that we created, it troubles me."
President Tump and first lady Melania Trump just arrived for dinner with other NATO leaders and spouses.
The dinner comes after a tense day at the summit. Trump demanded NATO members increase their defense spending, and suggested they boost levels to 4% of their GDP. He also accused Germany of being a "captive" of Russia.
President Trump is tweeting from the NATO summit in Brussels, repeating his earlier comments about members' defense spending and Germany's relationship with Russia.
What Trump said earlier today:
Trump demanded NATO members increase their defense spending, and suggested they boost levels to 4% of their GDP (NATO members currently target defense spending at 2% of economic output. A summit pledge in 2014 gave laggard members a goal of meeting the target by 2024.)
Trump also accused Germany of being a "captive" of Russia because it buys energy from Moscow. He went on to complain that the United States is expected to "defend them against Russia," despite Germany making "billions of dollars" in energy payments to Moscow.
NATO leaders, including President Trump, agreed on Wednesday to bolster the alliance's deterrence and defense capabilities to counter Russian threats, just days before Trump arrives in Helsinki to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The communique — a joint statement issued during the summit — also focused on increases in defense spending and improved burden-sharing, an issue Trump has repeatedly harped on.
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg hailed the communique during a news conference and noted that while "in the history of NATO we have had many disagreements ... We have been able to overcome them again and again."
"We agreed to strengthen NATO's deterrence and defense, step up our role in the fight against terrorism and share the burden of security more fairly," Stoltenberg said.
President Trump suggested today that NATO countries boost defense spending to four percent of their GDP, the White House says. But according to the latest numbers from NATO, the U.S. doesn't even spend that much.
This morning, Trump said the U.S., "in actual numbers," is spending 4.2% of its GDP on defense.
However, according to numbers just released by NATO yesterday, the US is expected to spend an estimated 3.5% of the GDP on defense in 2018. That is lower than last year's number, which was at 3.57%. Germany's estimated for 2018 is a little more than 1% — at 1.21%, which is slightly higher than last year's.
"On top of that, Germany is just paying a little bit over 1%, whereas the United States, in actual numbers, is paying 4.2% of a much larger GDP," Trump said during a breakfast with the NATO chief.
"So I think that's inappropriate also. You know, we're protecting Germany. We're protecting France. We're protecting everybody. And yet we're paying a lot of money to protect."
The White House declined to respond to request for comment on what the President said.
Here's the seven-year spending breakdown of the US and other NATO members:
President Trump suggested NATO leaders increase their defense spending to 4%, which is doubling the 2% target that many NATO countries have yet to meet.
“During the President’s remarks today at the NATO summit he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2% of their GDP on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4%," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed in a statement.
Sanders said Trump "raised this same issue" at NATO last year.
"President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations," Sanders said.
However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wouldn't say if Trump asked for 4% contributions.
"I will focus on what we have agreed, and we have agreed on 2%, so let’s start with that. We have a ways to go, but the good news is that we have started," Stoltenberg told reporters.
Important to note
In 2010, the US spent 4.81% of its GDP on defense. But that percentage has trailed off in recent years. Last year, the US spent 3.57%.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry weighed in on President Trump's comments ahead of the NATO summit this morning. The President accused Germany of being a "captive" of Russia and demanded NATO members increase their defense spending.
Here's what Kerry said in a statement:
"I've never seen a President say anything as strange or counterproductive as President Trump's harangue against NATO and Germany. It was disgraceful, destructive, and flies in the face of the actual interests of the United States of America."
"The President set America back this morning," Kerry said. "He is steadily destroying our reputation in the world."
Here's the full statement:
Speaker Paul Ryan was asked to respond to Trump's comments ahead of the NATO summit. (President Trump accused Germany of being a "captive" of Russia and said NATO members need to increase their defense spending.)
"I subscribe to the view that we should not be criticizing our President while he is overseas, but let me say a couple of things," Ryan said. "NATO is indispensable. It's as important today as it ever has been."
Ryan added: "The President is right to point out that our NATO allies need to adhere to their commitments, which is 2% GDP for defense. Germany is the largest economy in the EU. Germany should be committing 2% like they agreed to at the Wales Conference."
A note about the 2% goal: NATO members target defense spending at 2% of economic output. The target is described only as a “guideline,” and there is no penalty for not meeting it. While NATO has long been pushing for higher spending, a summit pledge in 2014 gave laggard members a goal of meeting the target by 2024.