Trump Speaks of ‘Strong Support’ for NATO in Call With Leaderby
President has call with Alliance secretary general on Sunday
Trump agrees to join in a meeting of NATO leaders in May
President Donald Trump pressed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s general secretary on how to encourage member nations to pay more for their defense while expressing “strong support” from the U.S. for the alliance, according to a readout of the call released by the White House.
During a call on Sunday with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump agreed to join in a meeting of NATO leaders in late May and discussed the potential for “a peaceful resolution of the conflict along the Ukranian border,” according to the readout.
Intense fighting has taken place between government troops and pro-Russian separatists near Ukraine’s Russian border during the past week, the latest episode in a crisis that began when Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014.
Trump has repeatedly questioned the value of NATO, the military alliance forged in 1949 as the cornerstone of the West’s defense, which he has referred to as obsolete.
He’s recently adopted a more conciliatory tone. Trump called the alliance “very important” in an interview in January, and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said Trump was “100 percent behind NATO” after their January meeting in Washington.
The U.K. provides the second-largest contribution to NATO, after the U.S. While the alliance agreed since 2014 that its members should spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, few of its 28 members do, and Trump has demanded that member nations to pay their fair share toward its costs.
NATO was established after World War II to protect western democracies against the Soviet Union. A key tenet is that an attack on any alliance member is considered an attack on all. And that’s what Trump has questioned.
The U.S. Army’s newest added role is expanding its presence in Europe to counter Russia after it seized Crimea and intervened in Ukraine. Russia’s meddling in Ukraine has spooked the Baltic region, which broke free of communist rule as the Soviet Union collapsed and remains home to a large Russian-speaking minority. While Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied having any designs on the Baltics, worries over security in the region resurfaced after Trump’s election.
“The parties agreed to continue close coordination and cooperation to address the full range of security challenges facing NATO,” the readout of the call with Stoltenberg said.