Lackluster defense spending by nations like Germany has been an issue since the end of the Cold War, but until recently no US President has taken a hard line against it. President Trump talked tough on defense spending leading up to the NATO summit, even making moves towards pulling US troops out of Germany. All NATO countries made a pledge to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense by 2024, so far, only eight NATO countries have met that obligation.
Trump did not soften up at the NATO summit, hitting allies both for their defense spending and specifically Germany’s reliance on Russian oil and gas. Trump even went so far as to say that Germany is “Totally controlled by Russia” during a press conference at the summit.
Trump’s criticism of US allies dates back to his candidacy in 2016, where he first railed against Japan and Korea for refusing to pay for the US military presence, which serves as a deterrent to North Korea, in their respective nations. Trump has been consistent on holding our allies accountable in the hopes of achieving a more equitable relationship on defense and trade for decades Going back to interviews in the 80’s, Trump lamented on our unfair trade relationships and our defense guarantees with Japan.
At the conclusion of the summit, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to NATO while claiming that he managed to get concessions on defense spending, while not specifying what those concessions were. Trump is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in his final stop in Europe next week.