President Donald Trump called for unity Thursday, demanding that NATO member nations pay their fair share on defense in mostly solemn remarks outside the military alliance’s new headquarters in Brussels.
Trump, who delivered the dedication for two memorials — a chunk of the Berlin Wall and a piece of steel from the World Trade Center that represents Article 5, the NATO commitment to defend its members — called the ceremony “a day for both remembrance and resolve.” Trump mentioned Article 5 during his remarks but did not directly express U.S. support for the provision as alliance members had hoped he would.
Trump’s remarks also focused on his insistence that NATO members live up to their commitment to spend a chunk of money on defense. Some of the assembled leaders exchanged glances as Trump criticized them, according to a press pool report.
“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” said Trump, who insisted that “thousands and thousands of people” are pouring into their countries when, in many cases, their governments don’t know who they are. “These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenberg and members of the alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.”
Trump said 23 nations aren’t meeting their defense spending obligations, which he said was unfair to American taxpayers. The U.S. over the past eight years has spent more on defense than the other member nations combined, Trump said.
He referenced the memorials being dedicated, saying, "It is truly fitting that these two artifacts now reside here so close together at the new NATO headquarters.”
“And I never asked once what the new NATO headquarters cost. I refuse to do that, but it is beautiful,” Trump said.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters after the speech Thursday that the administration wasn’t “playing cutesie with” Article 5, maintaining that Trump is “fully committed” to the collective defense clause despite his lack of emphasis on it in his address.
“If you are standing at a ceremony talking about the invocation of Article 5 after 9/11 and talking about that, that is a pretty clear indication of the support that exists for it,” said Spicer, calling the criticism “a bit silly” during a gaggle with reporters aboard Air Force One.
Trump did praise NATO allies for promoting peace and security around the world and acknowledged the recent attack in the United Kingdom that killed at least 22 people and injured dozens more at an Ariana Grande concert. Calling the attack “savage” and a “terrible thing,” the president added that it also “demonstrates the depths of the evil we face with terrorism.”
“Innocent little girls and so many others were horribly murdered and badly injured while attending a concert,” he said. “Beautiful lives with so much great potential, torn from their families forever and ever. It was a barbaric and vicious attack upon our civilization.”