Russian President Vladimir Putin told the French newspaper Le Figaro on Tuesday that he agrees with President Donald Trump’s stance on NATO’s defence spending.
“I understand the US president when he says that his NATO allies should take over part of this burden,” Putin said. “It is a pragmatic and understandable approach.”
Trump attended a NATO Summit last week in Brussels, where he criticised about two dozen leaders from other member nations about not meeting their “financial obligations” to increase defence spending by 2% of GDP.
“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States, and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” Trump said.
“We should recognise that with these chronic underpayments and growing threats, even 2% of GDP is insufficient to closing gaps in modernising readiness and the size of forces. We have to make up for the many years lost,” he said.
“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.”
But foreign policy experts have said that Trump’s interpretation of NATO is incorrect.
In 2014, member nations agreed to spend 2% of their GDP on defence spending by 2024, but they don’t pay NATO or the US. They decide their own level of military spending, just as the US does.
Trump also did not explicitly endorse Article 5 of NATO’s founding document in his speech, which stipulates that an attack on any member is an attack on all. Every president since Harry S. Truman has endorsed this article.
According to Politico, NATO officials were hoping Trump would confirm that the organisation’s biggest threat was countering Russian aggression in eastern Europe.
“Putin will be thrilled at Trump’s refusal to endorse Article 5,” Tom Wright, the director of the Center on the United States and Europe and a fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy at the Brookings Institution, tweeted. “Unimaginable under any other president.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel even said on Sunday that Germany can no longer fully rely on the US.
“The times in which [Germany] could fully rely on others are partly over. I have experienced this in the last few days,” Merkel said. “We Europeans really have to take our destiny into our own hands.”
This is also not the first time Putin has offered somewhat backhanded praise of Trump.
Earlier this month, when Trump reportedly disclosed sensitive intelligence on ISIS to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Putin offered up the transcript.
“If the US administration finds it necessary, we are ready to provide the record of the conversation between Trump and Lavrov to the Senate and Congress,” Putin said.
On Wednesday, Democratic Senator Cory Booker accused Russia of ‘undermining democracy’ around the world, and trying to create divisions within nations and among world leaders.
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