After NATO meeting, Macron rejected Trump's claim on defense spending

Communique 'reaffirms a commitment to 2 percent'

By JUDITH VONBERG, CNN

(CNN) - French President Emmanuel Macron has rejected a claim by US President Donald Trump that NATO allies had agreed to increase defense spending "at levels that they never thought of before."

At the end of a two-day NATO summit in Brussels, Macron referred reporters to the communique released Wednesday, which recommitted members of the alliance to a 2014 pledge to spent 2% of national GDP on defense by 2024.

"The communique is clear," Macron said. "It reaffirms a commitment to 2% in 2024. That is all."

At an unscheduled press conference earlier in the day, Trump declared that all NATO members had "agreed to substantially up their commitment," a claim that is largely not in dispute.

Then he added: "They're going to up it at levels that they never thought of before."

During the course of the two-day summit, Trump has repeatedly pushed NATO allies to increase their spending on defense, at times suggesting the target should be doubled to 4% of GDP. But while there was no agreement to change the 2% target -- which many NATO countries have yet to meet -- officials said Trump had brought new urgency to the issue.

Speaking to CNN's Christiane Amanpour after the summit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Trump's "direct" approach had "helped allies to really hear his message," especially on sharing the burden of defense spending.

Stoltenberg said Trump had instilled a "new sense of urgency" on the importance of meeting the 2% target. "His leadership, his strong message, is clearly having an impact," Stoltenberg said.

A senior NATO official told CNN Thursday that Trump's call for the target to be increased to 4% was a "throwaway remark." But it was one the President repeated several times during the final day of the summit.

Tweeting from Brussels early Thursday morning, Trump repeated his assertion that the target for defense spending among NATO allies should be much higher than the current 2%.

"Germany and other rich NATO countries... pay only a fraction of their cost," he said, mischaracterizing a country's own defense spending as payments to NATO, as he has frequently done.

"All NATO nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!"

During his press conference a few hours later, Trump suggested that the higher target could well become a reality, while also characterizing the modest result of the summit -- a re-commitment to 2% -- as a significant victory.

"The commitment was at 2%," he said. "Ultimately, that'll be going up quite a bit higher than that."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to comment on whether Canada and others had pledged to spend more on defense, saying only his country remained committed to the 2014 target.

Echoing his French counterpart, he referred to Wednesday's declaration, "which moves us toward 2%," Trudeau said at a news conference in Brussels.

To reach Trump's 4% target, Canada would need to double military spending, something that Trudeau denied was his goal. Instead, Canada will increase spending on defense by 70% by 2028, he said.

Stoltenberg also refused to be drawn on how countries had reacted to Trump's 4% suggestion. Asked multiple times by CNN's Amanpour whether leaders had agreed to a 4% goal, he repeated: "We have a commitment to spent 2%."

This story originally published on July 12, 2018.

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