BRUSSELS: US President Donald Trump on Thursday berated NATO allies for not doing enough on terrorism and spending, while stopping short of the public commitment to collective defence they had hoped for.
Trump’s broadside at fellow leaders during his first NATO summit came as he unveiled a 9/11 memorial at the alliance’s new $1.2 billion headquarters in Brussels which is meant to highlight allied unity and purpose.
Trump said the bombing in the British city of Manchester on Monday, claimed by the Islamic State group, showed that “terrorism must be stopped in its tracks.”
“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” the president said.
Trump denounced allies for not paying their fair share, saying that even if they met a commitment to allocate two percent of GDP to defence, it would still not be enough to meet the challenges.
“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defence,” the president said.
“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” repeating a charge he had raised constantly on the campaign trail.
‘Deeply troubling’ links
German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck an entirely different note as she unveiled a memorial made up of a section of the Berlin Wall to mark the end of the Cold War.
“Germany will not forget the contribution NATO made in order to reunify our country. This is why we will indeed make our contribution to security and solidarity in the common alliance,” she said.
The surprising mention of immigration was in line with one of Trump’s key election promises to build a wall to keep out immigrants crossing into the United States from Mexico, a plan widely derided in Europe.
Trump’s harsh words came despite NATO saying it would formally endorse joining the US-led coalition against IS at the summit, in the face of reservations in France and Germany about getting involved in another conflict.
Shortly before his address, Trump had ran into his first problems of a landmark European trip, embarrassingly called out in public over Russia and on leaks from the probe into the Manchester terror attack.
Trump announced a review of the “deeply troubling” leaks and warned that those responsible could face prosecution, the White House said.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said meanwhile she would raise directly with Trump the issue of leaks from a probe into the Manchester terror attack that have left British authorities infuriated with their US counterparts.
Arriving at NATO, May said she would “make clear to President Trump that intelligence which is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”
Two Donalds at odds on Russia
Trump’s carefully choreographed visits to the EU and NATO in Brussels had been designed to heal divisions caused by the billionaire’s harsh campaign criticisms of both institutions on the campaign trail.
He called NATO “obsolete” and praised Britain’s Brexit vote to leave the EU.
But differences immediately emerged after his talks with the European Union’s top officials Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker on climate change, trade, and above all Russia.
“I’m not 100 percent sure that we can say today — ‘we’ means Mr President and myself — that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia,” former Polish prime minister Tusk said.
Trump on the campaign trail made restoring relations with Russia a key promise but he has faced bitter opposition in Washington and has since become embroiled in a scandal over alleged links to Moscow.
Tusk also called for “Western values” to be promoted, challenging former tycoon Trump’s world view that self-interested deals best settle international problems.
Trump came to Brussels direct from a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, after visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
On his arrival on Wednesday in Brussels, the city he once said had been turned into a “hellhole” by Muslim immigration, the president was greeted by around 9,000 protesters saying “Trump not welcome.”