NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is downplaying President Trump's shift on the military alliance’s relevancy, arguing the U.S. leader has always been “very consistent” in his support.
Stoltenberg deflected questions about Trump’s statement a day earlier that NATO was “no longer obsolete” during an interview Thursday on CNN.
“For me, the important thing is that [Trump] has been very consistent when it comes to NATO in all my interactions and conversations with him,” Stoltenberg said.
Trump made headlines on Wednesday at a White House press conference with Stoltenberg when he flipped his description of NATO.
“I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete,” he said.
Trump repeatedly ripped NATO during his presidential campaign, complaining that it was too dependent on the United States and that too many members were not meeting their commitments on defense funding.
N.A.T.O. is obsolete and must be changed to additionally focus on terrorism as well as some of the things it is currently focused on!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2016
In reversing his position, Trump appears to be arguing that this has changed — and that the organization was now doing more to fight terrorism.
“I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change. And now they do fight terrorism,” Trump said at the press conference.
Stoltenberg did tell CNN that NATO members are now providing more defense spending to the alliance.
“[W]e turned a corner because after many years of decline in defense spending across Europe and Canada, we, for the first time, saw an increase in the defense spending,” Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg said the increase in defense spending stems from a variety of different reasons, but he says Trump’s remarks on the matter have “been helpful.”
“And also I have expressed that the strong focus of President Trump on this issue has been helpful, but, of course, these are decisions taken in 28 parliaments, governments, so there are different reasons,” he said.
In the 28-member group, the U.S. is one of just five countries to meet NATO’s 2 percent GDP percentage target for defense spending.
The U.S. spends 3.61 percent of its GDP on defense, while Greece, the second highest contributor, gives 2.36 percent.
This story was updated at 12:21 p.m.