US President Donald Trump urges North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members to double spend target

Trump: NATO allies should double their defense spending goals

In a tweet posted before his departure, Mr Trump put European allies on notice that he will be taking a tough stance on their contributions to the military alliance, as well as barriers to USA trade.

While it's true that only a handful of the 28 member countries now spend 2 percent or more of their GDP on defense, a 2014 agreement gave all of them a decade to get to the 2 percent level.

A White House spokeswoman said his remarks came as he was urging leaders to increase their outlays on defense and were not a formal proposal.

Despite the friendly rhetoric, U.S. -Russia relations have soured since Trump's presidency.

However, a formal summit declaration issued by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders Wednesday reaffirmed their "unwavering commitment" to the 2 percent pledge set in 2014 and made no reference to any effort to get to 4 percent.

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Praising new initiatives to build capacity, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg estimated that as much as 266 billion additional US dollars would be spent by European allies and Canada on defense by 2024.

"Many countries are not paying what they should, and, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back", Trump said at a breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. "But other presidents never did anything about it because I don't think they understood it or they just didn't want to get involved".

Mr Trump's main objection is that all but a handful of member states have still not increased their defence budgets to meet a goal of spending at least 2% of their annual economic output on defence by 2024. "And I am very happy that today we are united in freedom", Merkel said.

Credit for those added billions is being claimed fully by the US president. "So we're going to have a meeting on that", Trump said, describing the situation as "disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States". The United States spends heavily to defend Germany from Russian Federation, he said, while Germany is paying "billions and billions of dollars a year to Russian Federation".

The pair later met for a one-on-one meeting and while Trump insisted they had a "very very good relationship", their frosty body language suggested otherwise.

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The mercurial tycoon said before leaving Washington that his meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday "may be the easiest" part of his European tour, which also includes a trip to Britain, where the government is in crisis over Brexit.

Throughout the day, leaders were peppered with questions about Trump's behavior and whether or not they agreed with his position on Germany.

"We are having a great meeting, discussing military expenditure". "Enough. This isn't good for the United States and there are people across the aisle - as the Senate vote clearly showed - who know it and need to say it", Kerry wrote.

The NATO chief was frank about the impact of Trump's criticism on the organisation.

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