Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) said on Sunday that he commended President Donald Trump for pressuring NATO allies to increase their own defense spending.
“First, let me commend President Trump for having gotten $14 billion of more investment in their national defense in our collective security by NATO members by pressing them harder than before,” Coons said.
Last week, Trump embarked on a foreign tour that began with a NATO conference, a visit to the United Kingdom and is expected to end with a summit in Finland with Russian President Vladamir Putin. During his trip, Trump has made several disparaging comments about NATO allies like Germany and the UK. He also criticized the NATO alliance by saying member states are not paying their required amount of money for their defense and asserted that they were taking advantage of the United States.
“I think these countries have to step it up, not over a 10-year period, but they have to step it up immediately,” Trump said. He signaled out Germany as a “rich country” that immediately increase their defense spending.”
Alliance members in 2014 committed to spending 2 percent of their annual GDP on defense by 2024 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Only three European members—the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Greece—met their spending obligations in 2017. The United States spends 3.57 percent of its GDP on defense, amounting to more than 68 percent of the NATO total last year.
“This is a trend that began under President Obama and President Bush, but it has accelerated and that’s a positive,” Coons said. “But let me also say I’m worried about the ways in which President Trump undermined our NATO collective security by attacking our allies and through his tariff policies.”
The Trump administration imposed a variety of tariffs on NATO allies like Germany and Canada. Coons questioned the effectiveness of the tariffs and worried that the tariffs would weaken the NATO alliance at a time when Russia is embolden.
“These are folks who have suffered combat deaths, more than 1,000 NATO troops have died fighting alongside US in Afghanistan and I think it’s important that we strengthen the alliance and not distract our vital allies from our shared efforts against Russia on security and China on trade,” Coons said.