President Trump blasted NATO allies for not paying their fair share at a memorial event in Brussels today to honor the alliance’s post-9/11 Article 5 pledge and the end of the Cold War.
Leaders of NATO’s 28 member nations were present at the ceremony to unveil the memorial to symbolize the strength of the alliance: a piece of the Berlin Wall and twisted steel recovered from the north tower of the World Trade Center.
“Our gathering today is an opportunity to chart our shared future and to remember our shared past,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the ceremony. “The Berlin Wall is a symbol of that past. It was built to divide Europe. To keep people in, and ideas out. In the face of division, NATO Allies stood united. In defense of freedom, democracy and human dignity. In 1989, the wall was brought down. By peaceful protests. By popular movements such as Solidarność. And the bravery of countless men and women across Central and Eastern Europe.”
“Each day, all those who will enter this building will pass this memorial. They will understand that freedom will never be defeated. And that NATO will always defend the values on which our Alliance is founded,” he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was in Berlin the night the wall fell, noted that “with the end of the east-west conflict began a new phase, with new challenges.”
Next up was Trump, who called the ceremony “a day for both remembrance and resolve,” noting that after 9/11 “our NATO allies responded swiftly and decisively, invoking for the first time in its history the Article 5 collective defense commitments.” He also extended sympathies for the Manchester attack, called the terrorists “losers” again, and reflected upon his visit to Saudi Arabia and time spent with King Salman, “a wise man who wants to see things get much better rapidly.”
Trump said terrorism concerns are the “reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenberg and members of the Alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations, for 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense.”
“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years,” Trump continued. “Over the last eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined. If all NATO members had spent just 2 percent of their GDP on defense last year, we would have had another $119 billion for our collective defense and for the financing of additional NATO reserves.”
“We should recognize that with these chronic underpayments and growing threats, even 2 percent of GDP is insufficient to close the gaps in modernizing, readiness, and the size of forces. We have to make up for the many years lost. Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats. If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism.”
Trump then lauded the memorial, adding, “And I never asked once what the new NATO headquarters cost. I refuse to do that. But it is beautiful.”
The White House pool reporter noted that during Trump’s remarks, other NATO leaders cast sidelong glances at each other while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stared straight ahead.
After remarks came the family photo of NATO leaders, at which Trump stood between Stoltenberg and British Prime Minister Theresa May. Trump was not seen interacting with other world leaders who chatted with each other during the photo session.