President Donald Trump left the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, this week declaring himself a victor, but it’s unclear what it was, exactly, he “won.”
Trump is making an audacious claim that he somehow got NATO member countries to agree to pay more for the collective defense organization. He also stated that other presidents (likely alluding to his predecessor, former President Barack Obama) failed to do what he supposedly did.
“For years, Presidents have been coming to these meetings and talked about the tremendous expense for the U.S.,” Trump said. “And tremendous progress has been made – everyone has agreed to substantially up their commitment.”
Because of his efforts, Trump claimed, the U.S. is now receiving fair treatment from the rest of the organization.
"[The] United States was not being treated fairly, but now we are," Trump said.
But French President Emmanuel Macron disagreed with Trump. He pointed out that nothing has changed and that the agreement for some nations to pay more — 2 percent of their nations’ gross domestic products — did not change as a result of Trump’s theatrics in Brussels.
“There is a communique that was published [Wednesday],” Macron said. “It's very detailed. It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That's all.”
That goal was put into place in 2014 — four years ago, and three years before Trump assumed office.
Trump has made several attacks against nations we ally ourselves with, including berating Germany earlier this week for its business dealings with Russia (notably in those criticisms, Trump didn’t fault Russia itself).
He continued to make reproves against NATO nations Thursday morning in a pair of tweets that demanded a higher level of commitment.
“All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!” he wrote.
Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia. They pay only a fraction of their cost. The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2018
....On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable! All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2018
While the U.S. does spend a higher portion of its GDP toward NATO than other nations, it’s not at the 4 percent level that Trump is demanding of others. The U.S. commits about 3.5 percent of its GDP to the organization.
Undoubtedly Trump’s base will likely believe his bold claims that he strong-armed NATO nations to pay more. But those claims are hogwash as these nations already made these commitments four years ago when Trump was not in office.
Taking credit for something he didn’t do is Trump’s modus operandi — he does it so frequently that it might be easy to ignore it from time-to-time. But that reaction must be rejected. When Trump lies about his “accomplishments,” more voices, not less, must slam this president for purposely misleading the people he’s meant to serve.
On this occasion, Trump definitely deserves to be called out for his comments on NATO. His rhetoric in no way changed anything about how the group will fund itself, and he deserves none of the credit for an agreement made almost half a decade ago.