During a free-wheeling, unplanned press conference on Thursday morning following NATO deliberations, President Donald Trump proclaimed success and suggested NATO leaders had agreed to increase their defense spending.
“Everyone has agreed to substantially up their commitment. They’re going to up it at levels that they never thought of before,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “I told people that I’d be very unhappy if they didn’t up their financial commitments substantially.”
Trump did not directly answer questions about whether he had outright threatened to pull out of NATO, but said that he made it clear he was “extremely unhappy” with their financial commitments and “they have now substantially upped their commitment.” Multiple outlets reported that Trump threatened to “do our own thing” or “go it alone” if leaders didn’t up the ante.
But it’s unclear if nations actually agreed to pay a higher percentage of their countries’ gross domestic product. On Wednesday, the White House confirmed that Trump told other NATO leaders that he wanted them to increase their defense spending to 4 percent of their GDP. But later on in the press conference Thursday, Trump told reporters that NATO leaders had agreed to reach their goal of paying 2 percent of their nation’s GDP over a “faster” period of time. In 2014, NATO leaders decided each nation would increase their spending to 2 percent by 2024.
“They’re spending at a much faster clip, they’re going up to the 2 percent level,” he said. “Now what you have to understand is some of them have their own parliaments, their own Congresses, they have a lot of things to go through. … They can’t necessarily go in and say this is what we’re going to do, but they’re going back for approvals. Some are at 2 percent, others have agreed definitely to go to 2 percent. … After we’re at 2 percent we’ll start talking about going higher.”