President Trump has rowed back on his earlier position that “NATO is obsolete”, a stance that had alarmed us and many other allies.
Yesterday he declared the Organization a “bulwark of international peace and security” after meeting with the alliance’s chief, General Jens Stoltenberg.
“I said it was obsolete. It is no longer obsolete,” Trump said during a press conference following their meeting, adding that the alliance was increasing cooperation on terror attacks amongst other issues.
When the two met in the Oval Office they also discussed ways to get member countries to increase military spending to bolster the alliance.
During the campaign, Trump repeatedly said NATO countries were not shouldering their fair share of defense costs, leaving too much of the burden on the United States, a point that is both factually accurate and one made frequently by ourselves.
“The very strong message from President Trump has been very helpful” in getting member states to boost military spending, Stoltenberg said.
A few countries have recently agreed to move toward meeting the goal set in 2014 of spending 2% of gross domestic product on their militaries, a target which currently only the US, UK, Poland, Greece, and Estonia meet.
This is the second major positive signal Trump has given on NATO after Prime Minister May got a 100% commitment to NATO out of him at a press conference soon after his inauguration.
Meanwhile secretary of State Rex Tillerson has received a frosty reception in Russia following the US strikes in Syria, an act Moscow roundly condemned. The Russians are further annoyed by Trump signing off on Montenegro joining NATO next month, expanding the alliance’s footprint in the Balkans.