NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg praised President Donald Trump on Thursday for pushing countries in the alliance to boost their defense spending, an issue that has driven a wedge between Trump and Europe before.
“Let me thank you for the leadership you show on the issue of defense spending because it is very important that we all contribute more to our shared security, and it is really having an impact because, as you said, allies are now spending more on defense,” Stoltenberg said while taking reporters’ questions after the leaders met at the White House. “All allies are increasing their defense budgets.”
“Do you give me credit for that?” Trump pressed.
“You have helped to do that,” Stoltenberg said.
It was a notable moment for a U.S.-NATO relationship that has sometimes seemed on shaky ground during the Trump administration.
A minority of NATO’s members — including the U.S. — meet the alliance’s nonbinding guideline for each country to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense.
Other American presidents have pressed their NATO allies to increase military budgets. But the issue has become a particular flashpoint for Trump, who is often skeptical of international alliances or deals that he deems unfair to the U.S.
“Together we’ve increased and really raised a lot of money from countries that weren’t paying, or weren’t paying a fair share,” Trump said on Thursday. “We have a little ways to go, but many billions of dollars of additional money has been raised.”
Stoltenberg later told the president: “Your leadership on defense spending has really helped to make a difference.”
Trump noted that he thought the alliance should increase the standard to 4 percent.