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:
"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.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday he disagrees with Trump's comments earlier Wednesday that Germany is "a captive of Russia."
"No. No," Macron said after a US reporter asked Macron if he believes Germany is beholden to Russia. He was sitting next to President Trump at the time.
Macron added that he and Trump "just discussed" this and said "we work together."
President Trump joked that he was "glad" the press asked the question of Macron and then sought to usher the press out with a "thank you very much" before Macron jumped in with an answer.
President Trump just met with French President Emmanuel Macron.
"It's great honor to be with a friend of mine, Emmanuel. He's doing a terrific job being President of France. Changing a lot of things around."
"We have a tremendous relationship," Trump added. "We're discussing trade. We're discussing NATO. We're discussing a lot of different things and hopefully in the end it will all work out. So it is great to be with you."
President Trump said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel did discuss the Russian gas pipeline that funnels natural gas to Germany, but declined to address his earlier comments about Germany being "totally controlled" by Russia.
"Yes," Trump said when asked about his comments. "We did discuss that."
Instead, the US President, sitting alongside Merkel at the bottom of their bilateral meeting at NATO headquarters, said he and Merkel have a "very, very good relationship."
Trump also congratulated Merkel for having "tremendous success" and said he believes trade between the US and Germany will increase.
Merkel also did not address Trump's comments, simply saying she was "very pleased" to have an opportunity to discuss big issues like economic development, migration and trade with Trump.
President Trump, meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, touted the US's relationship with Germany.
This is striking difference from how Trump started the morning. Ahead of the summit, President Trump accused Germany, a close US ally, of being "a captive of Russia." He also demanded all NATO members increase their defense spending.
President Trump started this year's NATO summit by accusing Germany, a close US ally of being "a captive of Russia," and demanding all NATO members increase their defense spending.
Within hours of those comments, German Chancellor Angela Merkel touted German contributions to NATO — and how its defended US interests.
"Germany also does a lot for NATO. We are the second largest donor of troops, we put most of our military abilities into the service of NATO and we are strongly committed in Afghanistan, where we also defend the interests of the United States of America. Because the deployment in Afghanistan has to do with the only example of Article 5," Merkel said.
Merkel also noted that she grew up in Germany during a time when part of Germany "was controlled by the Soviet Union" and pointedly noted that Germany can now "form our own independent policies and can make independent decisions."
First lady Melania Trump is also in Belgium, where President Trump is attending the NATO summit.
Trump and other NATO spouses are at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in the leafy suburb of Waterloo, Belgium, today. It's about a 40-minute drive from Brussels’ city center.
Queen Elisabeth’s is a working music academy — much like New York City's Juilliard School — which focuses primarily on six disciplines: Singing, violin, piano, cello, viola, and chamber music.
Trump wore a navy blue Calvin Klein dress and Christian Louboutin high heels as she was greeted by her hosts for the event, Amelie Derbaudrenghien, the domestic partner of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and Ingrid Schulerud, the wife of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.