NATO chief: 'Very frank and open discussion' on defense spending 'has made NATO stronger'

NATO chief: 'Very frank and open discussion' on defense spending 'has made NATO stronger'
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NATO’s secretary general reiterated Thursday that allies have committed to spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense without directly commenting on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'Haven't thought about' pardons for Mueller target Pence: Rocket attack 'proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace' Conservation remains a core conservative principle MORE’s claim that allies agreed to his demand to go higher.

Jens Stoltenberg was repeatedly pressed during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Trump’s claim that allies agreed to increase their defense spending to 4 percent of their GDPs.

“So we have a commitment to spend 2 percent,” Stoltenberg replied. “The important thing now is that we need to invest more. We need to get more money. And the good thing is that, very much because of that very clear message from President Trump on this meeting, I think that allies understand there is a need to do that. There’s an urgency, there’s a sense of urgency when it comes to delivering on that commitment.”

Stoltenberg’s comment comes after Trump roiled this week’s NATO summit by upping his demands that allies spend more on defense.

In 2014, NATO allies agreed to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense by 2024. Eight allies are meeting or are expected to meet the goal this year, and at least 15 allies will be there in 2024.

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But on Wednesday, Trump urged allies in a closed-door meeting to increase their target to 4 percent.

Several reports Thursday indicated he also threatened to withdraw from NATO if other countries did not commit to a spending hike.

In a post-summit press conference, Trump said allies agreed to boost their spending.

“Tremendous progress has been made. Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment. They’re going to up it at levels that they’ve never thought of before,” Trump said.

Trump did not provide specifics on which countries agreed to increase spending, or by how much, only saying that “the commitment was at 2 percent, ultimately that’ll be going up quite a bit higher than that.”

NATO spending has increased every year since 2015, with last year’s 5.2 percent bump the largest in nearly 25 years. This year, spending is expected to increase another 3.78 percent.

Stoltenberg, walking a fine line not to incite Trump, has repeatedly credited Trump with corralling allies to accelerate their spending plans even as he has cautioned against alliance divisions.

Asked at his own post-summit press conference about Trump’s reported threat to “go it alone” if NATO does not increase its spending goal, Stoltenberg said “we had a very frank and open discussion on burden sharing.”

“I think that discussion has made NATO stronger,” Stoltenberg continued. “It has created a new sense of urgency when it comes to the importance of investing more in defense, and new money has come in.”

He also said there was agreement to “redouble” efforts to increase spending.

“The fact that we had this open discussion has also clearly stated that we will redouble our efforts,” he said, “and it also shows that a clear message from President Trump is having an impact.”