As Trump Heads to Two-Percenter NATO Club Lunch, Praises Tremendous, Stronger Alliance

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) looks on as US President Donald Trump gestures during a working lunch at the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
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President Donald Trump has hailed the reinvigorated NATO, telling the press it was now “stranger than it has ever been” and that investment in defence was rising across the alliance in a positive spin to the two-day London conference.

The comments praising the “tremendous… successful” conference attended by world leaders from 29 NATO member states and hailing a “stronger” alliance came from the President before the day’s recess for lunch. In a remarkable development, President Trump elected to share his working lunch with just those his official schedule recognised to be “2%ers” — member states that actually achieve their NATO treaty obligations.

As things stand, the latest NATO defence spending estimates mean just seven nations would have been invited to the 2% lunch, the United States, Greece, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Romania, Poland, and Latvia. The move may be seen as shaming the remaining 22 members who have failed to meet the obligations they reaffirmed their commitments to at the 2014 Cardiff NATO summit, when all NATO members said they would spend two per cent of their GDP on defence to fairly burden share within the alliance.

Making NATO more equitable for its members has been a key interest for President Trump from the earliest days of his presidency, as the United States has provided the lion’s share of collective defence for other members for decades. Speaking in a joint press conference with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and a frequent target of President Trump’s criticism over low defence spending — Germany is at just 1.36 per cent despite having a large and strong economy — President Trump said: “Let me just finish by saying we’ve had a tremendous two days, I think NATO is stronger than it has ever been. A lot more money is being produced by a lot of countries and they are enthusiastic about it.

“Within three years you’re going to be talking about, committed to $400 billion more, and not by the United States, [but by] other countries. So it’s been very successful today and there is great spirit.”

President Trump’s remarks reflect the growing interest and commitment in the alliance by its members in recent years. Trump’s role in this resurgence was name-checked by NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg Tuesday, who said of the alliance: “NATO is the only place where North America and Europe meet every day to discuss and take actions together, responding to a wide range of different security threats and challenges.

“And we do that more now than we have done for many, many years. That is not least because it has been so clearly conveyed from President Trump that we need fair burden-sharing, our allies are stepping up… there are differences because we are 29 different countries from both sides of the Atlantic… but despite these differences we are able to unite around a core cause because we are stronger together.”

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