NATO allies boost defense spending, emerge united from summit

Political leaders staring up into sky (© Markus Schreiber/AP Images)
NATO head Jens Stoltenberg (center), President Trump and other leaders watch an aircraft flyby July 12. The Brussels summit ended with a declaration of unity. (© Markus Schreiber/AP Images)

President Trump said NATO “is much stronger” after a two-day summit where allies agreed to increase defense spending to meet common threats to peace and security.

Every member nation “has agreed to substantially up their commitment. They’re going to up it at levels that they never thought of before,” Trump said at a news conference July 12 at the end of the meeting in Brussels.

“Now we’re very happy and have a very powerful, very strong NATO,” said the president, who has urged NATO’s 28 other members to shoulder the peacekeeping burden more fairly.

“I think NATO is very important, probably the greatest [alliance] ever, but it was not fair to expect the United States to pay so much of the costs,” the president said.

Donald Trump speaking at a lectern (© Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
“My number-one goal is peace all over the world,” President Trump said at the July 12 close of a summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (© Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

A dozen democracies first formed NATO and pledged themselves to collective defense in 1949 to deal with the threat from a hostile Soviet Union. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and then the Soviet Union collapsed, many former Soviet satellite countries joined NATO.

At the 2-day Brussels summit this month, the alliance demonstrated its support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia, which aspire to join NATO and counter Russian aggression. The alliance also is helping to combat terrorism and supporting allied operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

The 29 leaders unanimously adopted a summit declaration that reaffirms their commitment “to stand together and act together, on the basis of solidarity, shared purpose, and fair burden-sharing.”

The allies again condemned Russia’s illegal 2014 annexation of Crimea and demanded Russia remove troops from Ukraine.

They agreed to launch a NATO Readiness Initiative that will put an additional 30 ships, 30 battalions and 30 air squadrons at 30 days’ readiness or less. The alliance has already moved four combat-ready battalions to the Baltic states and Poland to deter further Russian aggression.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that since Trump took office, the European allies and Canada have added $41 billion to their defense spending. “NATO is good for Europe, and it is good for North America. Two world wars and a Cold War have shown us that we are stronger together than apart,” Stoltenberg said.

Trump called the summit “a fantastic two days. … It all came together at the end.”