Trump Demands US ‘Money Back’ From Free-Riding NATO Countries

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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President Donald Trump lambasted France and other NATO allies for not meeting defense spending requirements in a Jan. 28 call with French President Francois Hollande.

Trump reportedly told Hollande that while the U.S. is committed to France’s security, the U.S. “wants our money back,” according to a senior officials comments to Politico. Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO allies for failing to live up to spending requirements required under the treaty.

He also raised the matter of defense spending, along with NATO cooperation in the fight against Islamic State, to NATO General Secretary Jans Stoltenberg in a call Sunday. The alliance targets defense spending for countries at 2 percent of a member nation’s GDP. More than 20 countries in the alliance flout this defense spending target.

Trump called parts of NATO “obsolete” days before taking office to a German publication, and doubled down on his call for alliance members to up their defense spending during a visit to U.S. Central Command Monday.

“I think the distribution of costs has to be changed. I think NATO as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved,” Trump told The Washington Post in March 2016. Trump reiterated that in a CNN interview the same day, saying, “frankly they have to put up more money. They’re going to have to put some up also. We’re paying disproportionately. It’s too much. And frankly it’s a different world than it was when we originally conceived of the idea.”

His comments echo scathing criticism from former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Gates told NATO it had a “a dim if not dismal future” if member nations did not increase their defense spending in 2011. He continued to lambaste the alliance saying, “The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic writ large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”

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