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Trump Says 'No Problem' In NATO, Touting Allies' Spending Pledges

Reversing the harsh criticisms he has leveled at NATO, President Trump says the alliance is very strong – in part because of promises from America's allies to boost their military budgets to 2 percent of their gross domestic product. Trump called those commitments a major victory; they were first made in 2014.

After raising the threat of the U.S. leaving NATO, Trump said on Thursday that there are no problems, adding that America's allies had pledged to increase defense spending commitments "very substantially."

"We are doing numbers like they've never done before or ever seen before," Trump said.

The number that the president mentioned – 2 percent of countries' GDP – was in fact a main product of NATO meetings four years ago, when member nations pledged to either maintain the threshold or to meet it by 2024 – a deadline that seemingly still stands after this week's NATO sessions.

"It will be over a relatively short period of years," Trump said.

After Trump spoke, French President Emmanuel Macron said that nothing had changed from NATO's earlier commitment, despite Trump's claims.

"There is a communiqué that was published yesterday. It's very detailed," Macron said, according to France 24. "It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That's all."

Still, Trump celebrated his approach to these meetings, saying, "I think that NATO is much stronger now than it was two days ago." He also said the other leaders had thanked him for raising the issue of how to support NATO's operations.

When Trump was asked about his threat to pull the U.S. out of NATO, he said that idea was no longer necessary and mentioned the member nations' financial commitments. Of the alliance, he said it was "very unified, very strong, no problem."

Addressing a question about his consistency — and whether he might have less glowing comments about NATO on his Twitter account, Trump said, "No, that's other people that do that, I don't. I'm very consistent. I'm a very stable genius."

Trump's comments came in a wide-ranging news conference after attending a special meeting on defense spending during the NATO summit in Brussels. In it, he also discussed his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin; his efforts to broker a lasting deal with North Korea's Kim Jong Un; and the immigration crisis that has been playing out in Europe.

Trump said his summit with Putin, which will take place on Monday in Helsinki, would be a loose meeting with "no big schedule" – but one that could still be productive.

As for what he and Putin will discuss, Trump said Syria will be a main topic — as will Russia's attempts to interfere in the 2016 election that put Trump in the White House.

When asked how that conversation might go, Trump said, "He may deny it. I mean, it's one of those things. All I can do is say 'Did you?' and 'Don't do it again' — but he may deny it."

Before he visits with Putin, Trump will visit London and the U.K. — where many large protests are planned against his policies.

"I think it's fine," Trump said when asked about the protests. "I mean, I think they like me a lot in the U.K., I think they agree with me on immigration."

Trump also reiterated an earlier comment he made about this trip, saying of his meetings with America's European and NATO allies and then Russia's leader, "Putin may be the easiest of them all. You never know."

Trump called Putin "a competitor" — but one with whom he's been able to get along.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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