Trump hails ‘tremendous progress’ on Nato defence spending

He says he managed to get fellow leaders to agree to boost military budgets immediately

BRUSSELS: US President Donald Trump yesterday hailed "tremendous progress" on defence spending commitments by Nato members, saying two days of tough talks had left the alliance "much stronger".

"We made a tremendous amount of progress today," he said after emergency talks with fellow Nato leaders prompted by his demands for allies to boost military budgets immediately.

"Everyone's agreed to substantially up their commitment. They are going to up it at levels they have never thought of before."

He had thrown the summit into crisis by demanding countries meet a spending target of 2 per cent of gross domestic product immediately, instead of by 2024, and to eventually double spending to 4 per cent.

Mr Trump has long complained that European countries do not spend enough on their own defence, leaving the US to shoulder an unfair burden for protecting the continent.

"I let them know I was extremely unhappy with what was happening and they have substantially upped their commitment and now we are happy and have a powerful, strong Nato, much stronger than it was two days ago," he said.

Mr Trump stated his commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, speaking after reports that he had warned leaders that the US could pull out of the alliance if other members failed to increase their contributions.

"The US were not treated fairly, but now we are. I believe in Nato," Mr Trump told a press conference after a fraught Nato summit in Brussels.

"The US commitment to Nato remains strong," he added, "mainly because (of) the additional money they have committed."

Mr Trump also said he sees his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as a "competitor", not an "enemy", days before they meet for a high-stakes summit.

"Someone said, 'Is he an enemy?' No, he is not my enemy. 'Is he your friend?' No, I don't know him well enough, but the couple of times I got to meet him we got on very well.

"But ultimately he is a competitor. He is representing Russia, I am representing the United States," he added. "Hopefully some day he will be a friend. I just don't know."

Mr Trump said he would be discussing the civil war in Syria, the conflict in Ukraine, as well as allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

"I will be asking about meddling, your favourite question," he told reporters during a press conference on the sidelines of a Nato summit in Brussels.

"All I can do is say 'did you?' and 'don't do it again'. He may deny (it)," Mr Trump added. - AFP, REUTERS