United States President Donald Trump has hailed a personal victory at a NATO summit, saying allies had sharply increased defence spending commitments after he provoked a crisis session with a tirade at European leaders.
- US President Donald Trump says NATO allies have agreed to increase their defence spending
- The spending boost would account for $US33 billion, with each country reaching 2 per cent of GDP
- Mr Trump said he saw Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a "competitor" rather than an "enemy"
"I told people that I would be very unhappy if they didn't up their commitments," an ebullient President old reporters after the second day of the Brussels meeting, when NATO leaders huddled with Mr Trump to try to defuse a crisis.
"I let them know that I was extremely unhappy," he said, but added that the talks had ended on the best of terms.
"It all came together at the end. It was a little tough for a little while."
Officials at the meeting said Mr Trump had shocked many present and broke with diplomatic protocol by addressing German Chancellor Angela Merkel by her first name, telling her: "Angela, you need to do something about this".
Most officials and the invited leaders of non-NATO Afghanistan and Georgia were ushered out.
Others in the room, including the Lithuanian President whose country is among the most nervous of Russian ambitions, denied a suggestion that Mr Trump had threatened to quit the alliance.
External Link: Donald Trump twitter Nato: "Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia. They pay only a fraction of their cost. The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!"
When asked about that, Mr Trump said he believed he could do that without congressional approval, but it was "not necessary".
"I believe in NATO," Mr Trump said.
Instead, he said, the other 28 allies had agreed to increase their defence spending more quickly to meet a NATO target of 2 per cent of their national income within a few years.
The current commitment is to reach 2 per cent by 2024, but with get-out terms that would allow some to stretch it out to 2030.
Mr Trump stressed that NATO's budget had been unfair to the US, but now he was sure it would be fair.
Allies would be increasing spending by $US33 billion or more, he added.
He also said he thought spending of 4 per cent on defence — similar to the US level — would be the right level.
"We have a very powerful, very strong NATO, much stronger than it was two days ago," Mr Trump said.
'Total credit' to me, Trump says
Citing the alliance's secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, Mr Trump said: "Secretary Stoltenberg gives us total credit, meaning me, I guess, in this case, total credit. Because I said it was unfair."
"The numbers have gone up like a rocket ship … and they're going to be going up further," he said.
External Link: Donald J Trump twitter: ".On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable! All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!"
"Everybody in that room got along and they agreed to pay more and they agreed to pay it more quickly."
Ms Merkel said: "We had a very intense summit."
Mr Trump had opened the first day of talks in Brussels with a public diatribe against Germany, the second-biggest state in the Western defence alliance, criticising its reliance on Russian gas imports and failure to spend more on defence.
The mood had appeared to have calmed as the summit went into its second day, focusing on operations beyond Europe.
But, several sources said, Mr Trump instead reopened in strong terms his demand that other countries spend more immediately.
"The language was much tougher today," one source said.
"His harshest words were directed at Germany, including by calling her Angela — 'You, Angela.'"
As well as Mr Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Charles Michel, the Prime Minister of Belgium, were singled out by Mr Trump for undershooting on their spending targets when US taxpayers, funding a defence budget worth about 3.6 per cent of their national income, foot much of NATO's bills.
Putin 'is a competitor, not an enemy'
In a media conference where the US President again called himself a "very stable genius" and referenced his electoral college victory in the 2016 election, Mr Trump said he considered Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "competitor" rather than an enemy.
Mr Trump said he did not want Russia to be a threat, while adding that his meeting with Mr Putin next week "may be the easiest on his Europe trip".
"Is he my enemy? He is not my enemy … hopefully someday maybe he will be a friend," Mr Trump said.
"I just don't know him very well."
Mr Trump also said he thought the NATO countries and Russia would be "able to get along".
"I think we will be able to," he said.