Trump presses NATO allies to increase defense spending before going to Britain

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BRUSSELS — On the July 12 final day of a two-day summit, U.S. President Donald J. Trump sought pledges from leaders of other NATO allies to take immediate steps to increase defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product, something that all but 23 of the member countries have not yet done.

After a meeting with allies and non-members Ukraine and Georgia, Trump asked leaders to skip talks about Afghanistan so that he could press the need for increased defense spending. At a press conference, he said the leaders agree to “step up their commitment like they have never done before” on spending.

Trump again was saying, that “U.S. paid probably 90 percent of NATO” and only five allies — Britain, Greece, Estonia and Poland besides the United States — are paying 2 percent of GDP on defense.

“And now countries are going to start upping their commitments. Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening. They have substantially increased their commitment and now we are very happy. We have a very strong NATO, much stronger then in was two days ago. The U.S. was not treated fairly but now we are because the commitment has been up so much. I was very firm yesterday.”

Trump said that fellow heads of states should ask their legislatures for an immediate increase in defense spending to 2 percent of GDP with the goal of doubling it to 4 percent of GDP in coming years.

“We had a fantastic meeting at the end, 29 countries, they are putting up a lot,” he said.

Trump called NATO “very important. The U.S. commitment to NATO is very strong.”

He also said that allies thanked him for agreeing to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an event that will take place on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland, after he visits the United Kingdom.

“I look forward to the meeting…will see, what will happen. It’s not a big schedule, it will not take a long period of time. Will see where it leads. But it could lead to something very productive…”

According to Trump, he will talk with Putin about Syria, Ukraine and Russian meddling in the U.S. elections.“Ukraine was here today, and it was really interesting what they had to say,” he said.

Answering on the question if he will recognize Crimea as Russian, Trump said: “It is very interesting question. A lot happened before I got there, President (Barack) Obama let that happen. It was on his watch, not on mine. Would I have allowed it to happen? No, I would not have allowed it to happen. But he did allow it to happen. What will happen with Crimea at this point, that I can’t tell you. But I’m not happy about Crimea.”

Trump is also concern about the construction of the North Stream 2 gas pipeline, an expansion of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. Together, the pipelines will be able to carry 110 billion cubic meters of gas annually from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine.

“I’m very concerned about that pipeline, I don’t like the pipeline. And when I talk about it, I said: How can you have NATO and have somebody paying people that you are protecting against?”

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