President Donald Trump on Wednesday demanded that America's NATO allies raise their domestic defense spending levels to 2 percent "immediately" instead of by 2024, as NATO had previously agreed.
The tweet was Trump's latest provocation in what has been a combative day as he attends a NATO summit in Brussels.
Earlier in the day, the White House confirmed that Trump also demanded that the agreed-upon level of domestic defense spending — 2 percent — be doubled, to 4 percent of gross domestic product.
"The president raised this same issue when he was at NATO last year," said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. "President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations.”
Speaking at a breakfast Wednesday morning, Trump told NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg that the United States "in actual numbers, is paying 4.2 percent of a much larger GDP." But this figure was disputed by experts, who said that the spending figure is closer to 3.5 percent.
Moreover, Trump's snowballing demands of America's NATO allies may ultimately have the effect of weakening the U.S. bargaining position on the one demand that really matters, wrote Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer.
"Existing NATO agreement is 2% of GDP by 2024. Many countries not on track to hit that. Including Europe’s wealthiest — Germany. That’s unacceptable," Bremmer wrote on Twitter. "But demands of 2% 'immediately; undermines US commitment to existing obligations."
Though Trump questioned, "What good is NATO," his own secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who sat next to him in meetings, later appeared to offer an answer to Trump's question on Twitter.
"NATO is the most successful alliance in history. All NATO allies have committed to extending this success through increased defense spending, deterrence and defense, and fighting terrorism," Pompeo wrote. "Weakness provokes; strength and cohesion protects. This remains our bedrock belief."