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In Strong Statement, NATO Criticizes Russia, Pledges 'Fair Burden-Sharing' in Defense Spending

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (left), US President Donald Trump (center) and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May talk at the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11.

BRUSSELS -- NATO leaders have pledged an "unwavering commitment" to meeting defense spending targets, and criticized Russia for actions it says have reduced security in Europe and elsewhere.

In a formal statement issued on July 11 after a summit meeting of members' heads of state, the alliance also expressed support for Britain and its conclusions that Russia was behind the nerve-agent poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter earlier this year.

The statement was notable in its wording mainly because of the acrimony that preceded the Brussels meeting when U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out at alliance members, accusing them of not paying their fair share.

The NATO statement released on July 11 reaffirmed its position on Article 5, the alliance's most important clause which stipulates that an attack on one member state is considered an attack on all.

"Any attack against one ally will be regarded as an attack against us all, as set out in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. We will continue to stand together and act together, on the basis of solidarity, shared purpose, and fair burden-sharing," the statement said.

Trump has in the past expressed doubts about Article 5, before eventually clarifying in June last year that he was "absolutely" committed to it.

The NATO statement also took a swipe at Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula.

"We strongly condemn Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognize," it said.

The NATO statements on Russia were also significant given that Trump will be meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Helsinki.

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