President Donald Trump lectured more than two dozen world leaders Thursday during a NATO conference, hammering them for open-borders policies and for failing to pay their fair share of the organization’s defense costs.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and others stared at the brash U.S. president with a mixture of indignation and disbelief at the stunning dressing-down.
Merkel had moments earlier declared, in remarks about a section of the Berlin Wall that stands in a courtyard of NATO’s new Brussels headquarters, that ‘it is not isolation and the building of walls that make us successful, but open societies and the sharing of values.’
That seemed to be a veiled slap at Trump for insisting that a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico would be an effective terror deterrent by controlling immigration.
Trump seemed ready for the challenge, tying terror attacks like last week’s carnage in the United Kingdom to the unchecked flow of migrants throughout Europe.
President Donald Trump spoke next to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a NATO ceremony on Thursday in Brussels, Belgium, criticizing other heads of state for being soft on immigration and for not paying their fair share to the organization
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were less than thrilled to see Trump calling them and their colleagues out
The entire panel of heads of state looked on and cringed as the President of the United States lectured them like children
‘Terrorism must be stopped in its tracks, or the horror you saw in Manchester and so many other places will continue forever,’ Trump said.
‘You have thousands and thousands of people pouring into our various countries and spreading throughout, and in many cases we have no idea who they are. We must be tough, we must be strong and we must be vigilant.’
‘The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration,’ he said.
Trump hammered home the same anti-terror themes he has flogged since his inaugural foreign trip began last Saturday – saying of suicide bombers and other jihadis that ‘wherever they exist in our societies, we must drive them out and never, ever let them back in.’
But it was Trump’s rhetorical finger wagging on NATO’s budget that left heads of state dealing with grimaces, facial contortions.
British PM Theresa May looked none too pleased with Trump as he took his place with the group following his remarks
Trump said he has been ‘very, very direct’ with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and other nations ‘in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.’
‘But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying, and what they are supposed to be paying, for their defense.’
‘This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,’ he said, ‘and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money for past years, and not paying in those past years.’
Trump said the U.S. has spent more money on defense in the past eight years than the combined spending of all other NATO members.
And he called on them to make good on pledges to spend at least 2 per cent of their gross domestic product – ‘the bare minimum,’ he said – on defense, including becoming current with their NATO dues.
‘If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today – especially from the threat of terrorism,’ Trump insisted.’
Trump spoke in front of the new NATO headquarters building and made a point of snarking about how much it cost
Merkel (in red) was seen voicing her displeasure after Trump’s speech, while NATO leaders lined up for a group photo
Trump emerged as the tongue-lasher-in-chief, drawing awkward looks from more than two dozen world leaders
He remarked on the splendor of NATO’s shimmering new complex in Belgium, a 2.7 million square-foot glass and steel creation, which the nation of Belgium officially handed over to NATO on Thursday.
‘I never asked once what the new NATO headquarters cost,’ Trump snarked.
‘I refuse to do that. But it is beautiful.’
Trump claimed during his presidential campaign that NATO had grown ‘obsolete’ and full of bureaucrats living off American generosity.
He has also refused to commit to defending other member nations if one of them is attacked – something required under ‘Article 5’ of NATO’s charter.
After Trump’s speech, Stoltenberg was seen inside the headquarters lobby showing the president the copy of Article 5 that hands on one wall.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said this week that ‘It goes without saying” that Trump’s presence in Brussels underscores the White House’s ‘commitments and treaty obligations.’
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that ‘of course’ the U.S. supports Article 5.