Former United Kingdom Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump is legitimate in his criticisms of the uneven spending amongst members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
“I think the criticisms are legitimate. I’ve heard them before President Trump, I’ve heard them from previous presidents that America was paying a disproportionate share of the NATO budget,” Fallon said in an interview with CNBC.
Trump relaunched his longstanding concerns with NATO in a series of tweets on Monday and Tuesday, one saying, “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”
Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting – NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2018
Trump’s criticism of NATO began on the campaign trail in 2016 when he said the U.S. might not reach its full commitment to the organization because several other nations had not reached their responsibility of 2-percent spending of gross domestic product (GDP).
“We’re [the U.K.] spending 2 percent, but 16 of the 29 NATO members aren’t even spending 1.5 percent. So I’m with the president on this,” Fallon continued. “Germany, Spain, Italy need to be paying more.”
Besides the series of angry tweets, Trump also sent letters to NATO member states in June criticizing leaders and pressuring them to meet the 2-percent GDP spending, citing the unfairness to U.S. taxpayers as well as soldiers risking their lives defending other nations. (RELATED: Europeans Like The Idea Of America Defending NATO Allies, But Not So Much The Other Way Around)
“I think it’s quite legitimate for the president to be asking why the American taxpayers should take the pain of helping to defend Europe,” Fallon said.
Trump’s tweets and Fallon’s comments come as Trump heads to Europe for a seven-day tour that starts with a NATO meeting in Brussels, where Trump is poised to confront members over military spending.
The European Union hit back at Trump on Tuesday over his comments to longtime U.S. allies.
“Money is important, but genuine solidarity is even more important,” European Council President Donald Tusk said. “America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many.”
A NATO spending report for 2017 showed the U.S. continued to spend more on defense than every other country.
The report shows U.S. defense expenditure accounting for 3.57 percent of its GDP in 2017, with the runners-up being Greece at 2.36 percent, the U.K. at 2.12 percent and Estonia at 2.08 percent.
A few of the smallest spending countries included Luxembourg at 0.46 percent, Belgium at 0.90 percent and Spain at 0.92 percent.
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