U.S. President Donald Trump has sent letters to the leaders of several NATO allies, including Belgium, Canada, Germany, and Norway, saying that they are spending too little on defense, The New York Times reports.
In a July 2 report, The New York Times said the “sharply worded” letters, sent in June, also warned that the United States is growing frustrated with what Trump said was their failure to meet security obligations shared by the military alliance.
Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO members that spend less than the agreed 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.
Tension has been rising between the United States and some of its closest allies ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12. The meeting is to be followed by a planned summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16.
James Appathurai, NATO deputy assistant secretary-general for political affairs, told RFE/RL on July 2 that “politics are a little bit unpredictable these days” but that “all allies are turning in the right direction” regarding defense spending.
“The U.S. government under President Trump has increased by 40 percent the amount that is invested in European defense.... For their part, the Europeans are doing more on defense, too, more on NATO. So we have a good story to tell."
In his letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump wrote that the United States “continues to devote more resources to the defense of Europe when the Continent’s economy, including Germany’s, are doing well and security challenges abound,” according to someone who saw it and shared excerpts with The New York Times.
“This is no longer sustainable for us,” the U.S. president added, warning that “growing frustration is not confined to our executive branch. The United States Congress is concerned, as well.”
The language is echoed in Trump’s letters to the leaders of other NATO allies, including the prime ministers of Canada, Norway, and Belgium, The New York Times reported.
Speaking on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels on June 29, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Trump had written to eight European NATO members to tell them to stick to their defense-spending commitments.
The AFP news agency quoted a diplomatic source as saying that the eight countries were Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Norway, and the Netherlands.
"I am not very impressed by this type of letter," Michel said. “Belgium has halted the systematic fall in defense spending and takes part in a lot of military operations."
Merkel has said that Germany would not be able to meet its NATO spending obligation until well after 2024.