NATO summit comes ahead of Trump’s direct meeting with Putin

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SHAFAQN — President Trump ripped into NATO allies on Wednesday, slamming Germany for its dependence on Russian energy and demanding that nations double their military spending commitments. Ultimately however, the group resolved differences enough to sign new plans for defense against Russia and terrorism. The agreement includes a commitment from European leaders to boost spending.

According to Washington post, Trump’s spending demand, during a closed-door meeting of NATO leaders, would increase defense targets to 4 percent of each country’s gross domestic spending — more than what the United States channels toward its military. It was not clear whether he was serious about a new standard or whether he was using the number as a negotiating tactic to edge overall spending higher and get European nations to pay more.

CNN reports NATO members currently target defense spending at 2% of economic output. A summit pledge in 2014 gave laggard members a goal of meeting the target by 2024.

Trump also accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia because it buys energy from Moscow. He went on to complain that the United States is expected to “defend them against Russia,” despite Germany making “billions of dollars” in energy payments to Moscow.

According to Newsweek, Trump kicked off the much-anticipated NATO summit in Brussels with an attack on Germany, claiming it is controlled by Russia. Citing the expanding flow of Russian natural gas into Germany and the rest of Europe, the president said the country is “a captive of the Russians”.

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia… They will be getting between 60 and 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that is appropriate because I think it’s not,” Trump said, before criticizing Berlin’s failure to significantly increase defense spending. In response, Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told CNBC she believes Berlin could “cope” with Trump’s repeated criticisms.

Still, along with 28 other heads of state, Trump signed the 23-page NATO declaration, which reflects months of negotiation. That contrasts with Trump’s departure last month from the Group of 7 summit meeting, when he refused to sign onto the usual carefully crafted communiqué.

According to Nytimes, NATO members agreed in 2014 to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on their militaries by 2024. Trump has repeatedly castigated other countries for spending less, even though the deadline is six years away, but the declaration reaffirmed commitment to that target. The 79-point joint statement also censured Russia’s actions in Ukraine in the bluntest terms: “We strongly condemn Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognize”. Just over a week ago, the US president told reporters on Air Force One that he was considering supporting Russia’s claim to Crimea, which it seized in 2014.

Only eight of 29 NATO countries are on track to meet pledges of spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense this year. Washington spent 3.6 percent last year. When he has talked about it in recent, European diplomats have been worried about continued U.S. support for NATO. But even as Trump hit allies, he also signed on to efforts to strengthen the alliance against the Kremlin and other rivals, as well as a statement that the alliance does not accept Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The combination of a high-stakes NATO summit and a one-on-one meeting between President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin could bring about the most dramatic geopolitical sea change since the end of the Cold War, analysts have told CNBC.

NATO leaders are still concerned that Trump will make concessions to Russian president Putin when the two meet on Monday in Helsinki.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker raised deep concerns that Trump is trying to “tear down” NATO and “punch our friends in the nose”. While he said he supports the notion of getting NATO countries to pay more, he told CNN that Trump’s rhetoric is “damaging to us”.

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