Standing alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President Donald Trump reversed his position Wednesday on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“I said it was obsolete,” Trump recalled during a joint news conference at the White House. “It’s no longer obsolete.”
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Trump repeatedly called the alliance obsolete as a presidential candidate, at one point going so far as to suggest he wouldn’t defend NATO allies under attack unless they paid their fair share in defense spending.
Nevertheless, a senior White House official indicated Wednesday morning that Trump’s conversation with Stoltenberg wouldn’t be “awkward” despite the president’s past comments.
Trump told reporters in his opening statement that the two leaders agreed that NATO members should contribute 2 percent of national GDP for defense and that they also discussed terrorism.
“If other countries pay their fair share instead of relying on the United States to make up the difference, we will all be much more secure, and our partnership will be made that much stronger,” Trump said. “The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism. I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism.”
Trump’s claim about NATO changing its role, however, is a false statement he also made as a candidate. PolitiFact rated that claim “false,” writing that Trump was referring to the creation of a senior NATO post for coordinating intelligence sharing, which the fact-checking organization noted at the time was “just the most recent incremental change in how the alliance handles counter-terrorism.”