President Donald Trump took a victory lap Thursday before leaving the NATO summit, referring to himself as a “stable genius” and taking credit for securing a commitment from allies to increase their share of defense spending, a point he constantly drove home during the talks in Brussels.
“I told people that I would be very unhappy if they didn’t up their commitments,” a beaming Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference at NATO headquarters.
“I let them know that I was extremely unhappy,” he said, adding that it all worked out. “It all came together at the end. It was a little tough for a little while.”
Over the two days of talks, Trump assailed leaders of the 70-year-old partnership, saying they weren’t paying their fair share for defense and complaining that the United States wasn’t getting any benefits from the billions of dollars it spends protecting Europe.
Members agreed in 2014 to increase their spending to 2 percent of their gross domestic product in 10 years, but it was unclear what they agreed to in Brussels.
Trump had pushed for an increase to 4 percent — about what the US spends.
“They are going to up it to levels like they have never thought it before,” the president said.
Trump took an aggressive approach with the group — in person and on Twitter — leading some to knock down reports that Trump threatened to leave the alliance.
“President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.
But he denied that the members agreed to boost spending, referring to a communique released Wednesday.
“It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That’s all,” he said.
Trump lashes out at NATO leaders over defense spending
Trump dismissed suggestions that his browbeating of the organization’s leaders weakened the alliance created after World War II.
“We have a very powerful, very strong NATO, much stronger than it was two days ago,” he said.
And Trump said that’s all his doing.
“Secretary Stoltenberg gives us total credit, meaning me, I guess, in this case, total credit. Because I said it was unfair,” Trump said, referring to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“The numbers have gone up like a rocket ship … and they’re going to be going up further,” he said. “Everybody in that room got along and they agreed to pay more and they agreed to pay it more quickly.”
From Brussels, Trump will travel to England, where he’ll meet with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth before heading to Helsinki on Monday for a face-to-face summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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