After months of hearing President Donald Trump bash NATO on the campaign trail, the alliance’s secretary general said Thursday that he and the U.S. president are actually in agreement on two key issues: defense spending and terrorism.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who visited the White House on Wednesday, called his meeting with Trump “good and very productive” in a Thursday morning interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Stoltenberg said he was of the same mind as Trump on terrorism, a problem towards which NATO has sought to adapt itself to address, and defense spending among member states, which both men agreed must increase.
Stoltenberg also said Trump’s administration is “very supportive of the adaptation of NATO” that has drawn an increased military presence into the alliance’s eastern regions, closer to the border with Russia. That movement, a response to increased Russian military activity and aggression, began before Trump took office but the secretary general said the new U.S. president backed the changing posture in Poland and NATO’s Baltic states.
While Stoltenberg said Trump has delivered a “consistent message” in support of NATO since his election last year, the president was much more critical of the alliance as a candidate, characterizing it as “obsolete” and openly questioning whether the U.S. would come to the aid of member states who had not met the agreed-upon defense spending goals.
Trump also panned NATO for being unable to more forcefully address terrorism and took credit for the alliance’s decision to create a new terror-focused position, although the alliance said the move had nothing to do with Trump.
The president has since backed away from some of his criticism of NATO and at a press conference Wednesday said he no longer considers the organization obsolete. But he has continued to press for increased spending among member states and for more focus on terrorism, positions Stoltenberg said he was working to advance as well.
“A strong trans-Atlantic alliance as NATO is important for Europe but is also important for the United States,” Stoltenberg said. “And especially in times of uncertainty, unpredictability, as we see today, it’s even more important to have a strong NATO alliance bonding North America and Europe together.”