Trump, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, took issue with the US protecting Germany as it strikes deals with Russian Federation.
In the aftermath of Russia's annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014 and its subsequent military incursion into eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon ramped up joint exercises in eastern and central Europe and spent billions on what it calls the European Deterrence Initiative aimed at Russian Federation.
While some diplomats say they are concerned Trump could condition USA help on the 2% spending threshold, others worry the President could scale back a planned funding increase for a European deterrence program.
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The Polish proposal, and all North Atlantic Treaty Organisation policies, assume that the US president considers military presence of any kind, whether American or not, as a key to maintaining peace in Europe.
The dramatic exchange set the tone for what was already expected to be a tense day of meetings with leaders of the military alliance.
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The United States remains willing to engage in negotiations with China on the issues at hand, he added. Tuesday's announcement was met with backlash from some quarters.
European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday in a message to Trump that "it is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem".
Derek Chollet, executive vice president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a think tank, says there is a clear connection between Trump's criticism of German defense spending and reports that the Pentagon has undertaken a review of the cost of keeping troops in Europe. Trump said "actual" USA military spending is 4.2 percent of GDP, without explaining the big discrepancy.
When it comes to Trump's combative stance on German defense spending, Germany is in the eye of the storm.
Germany, France, Spain and even Belgium have all pledged this year to increase military spending by tens of billions of euros. Trump remains unpopular among many United Kingdom voters, so there are risks for May of being seen as too eager to please the president.
The sheer size of Germany's economy - total GDP in 2017 was around $4 trillion, compared with just $250 billion for Greece - makes it hard for Chancellor Angela Merkel to quickly boost the percentage of GDP spent on defence. Merkel is also pushing for a "responsible relationship with Russian Federation".
Trump travels to London later in the week and will get a first-hand view of the political turmoil now engulfing the government of Prime Minister Theresa May over her government's Brexit plan. The remarks were also reported by journalists present at the meeting.
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According to the report, "In 2017, the US accounted for 51.1 percent of NATO's combined GDP and 71.7 percent of its combined defense expenditure". That has been most plain in his antagonistic approach to Germany, the main host of US forces in Europe. Doing so would relieve some pressure on USA military spending. After spending $3.4 billion on that initiative last year, the Trump administration has proposed boosting it to $6.5 billion in the 2019 budget year.
The Canadian president has not been spared the defense spending criticism by his American counterpart.
Additionally, Germany's military is in a poor state, and its own defense minister has criticized a lack of readiness and defense spending. Instead, it will max out at 1.4%. Made at the right moment, the move signals a willingness to please the U.S.
With tensions in the Western alliance running high over Trump's trade tariffs on European steel and his demands for more contributions to ease the burden on U.S. taxpayers, the latest remarks fueled concerns among allies over the USA role in keeping the peace that has reigned since World War Two. "After all, you don't have that many".
Trump had spent his time in Brussels berating members of the military alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defense, accusing Europe of freeloading off the USA and raising doubts about whether he would come to members' defense if they were attacked.
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