US president says NATO members agreed to up defence budget, but reports say nothing was resolved at Brussels summit.
US President Donald Trump says he is “very, very happy” because NATO members have pledged to increase defence spending to levels “never seen before”, despite denials from allies such as France that additional pledges were made beyond previous targets.
In a news conference after a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday, Trump said NATO members would increase their contribution at a “much faster clip” than scheduled.
“We made a tremendous amount of progress today,” Trump said.
“The United States’ commitment to NATO remains very strong,” he said, adding that it was “much more powerful than two days ago”.
French President Emmanuel Macron, however, denied Trump’s claim that NATO powers agreed to increase their defence spending beyond what was already committed, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Some news agencies reported that Trump had threatened to pull out of the 70-year-old alliance, but Macron denied such statement was issued.
Meanwhile, Jens Stoltengerg, secretary-general of NATO, said that there was “frank and open” discussion during the meeting.
He said the meeting delivered on the “substance” that NATO wanted to achieve, but sidestepped questions about what was exactly agreed upon during the unscheduled meeting.
Aside from the US, which spends about 3.5 percent of its gross domestic products on defence, only Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia currently meet the 2 percent target.
In 2014, NATO countries committed to spending 2 percent of their GDP on defence by 2024, but NATO has estimated that only 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.
“Everybody in the room thanked me,” Trump said, adding that eventually the NATO allies will have to increase their contribution to the alliance up to four percent of their GDP.
Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor, James Bays, reporting from the Belgian capital, said that based on interviews with sources, “nothing it seems, in the closed-door meeting, was resolved”.
“President Trump created for the second day a crisis on [NATO] spending. And yet, he came into the news conference and declared victory,” Bays said.
Trump himself did not give specific details on when his NATO allies would fulfill the US demands and to what amount.
When asked if he won “concessions” from Germany over its own NATO spending, Trump said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to “increase substantially its time period” of commitment.
After the NATO countries have fulfilled their commitment of 2 percent commitment in defence spending, he said he wants discussion to start on the four percent benchmark.
“We should be at four percent. I think four percent is the right number.”