During a joint press conference on Friday at the White House, British Prime Minister Theresa May seemed to go out of her way to box in President Donald Trump on his backing for NATO, declaring that he had told her in their private meeting that he will support the decades-old alliance “100 percent.”
“On defense and security cooperation, we are united in our recognition of NATO as the bulwark of our collective defense and today we’ve reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to the alliance. Mr. President, I think you confirmed that you are 100 percent behind NATO,” May said at the press conference following her private meeting with the new United States president.
May’s portrayal of Trump’s comments on NATO diverge from his public statements on the alliance.
In July, Trump sent shockwaves across Europe when he hesitated to commit to helping the Baltic states defend themselves against Russian aggression. He said that they would have to fulfill their funding obligations to NATO in order to earn the United States’ support. Earlier in January, Trump called NATO “obsolete.”
At the Friday press conference, May did give a nod to Trump’s call for all NATO members to pay more for defense.
“But we’re also discussing the importance of NATO continuing to ensure it is as equipped to fight terrorism and cyber warfare as it is to fight more conventional forms of war, and I’ve agreed to continue my efforts to encourage my fellow European leaders to deliver on their commitments to spend two percent of their GDP on defense so the burden is more fairly shared,” May said. “It’s only by investing properly in our defense that we can ensure we’re properly equipped to face our share of challenges together.”