Brussels // Donald Trump on Thursday berated America’s Nato allies for not doing enough on terrorism and meeting their commitments on defence spending.
The US president also failed to give a public endorsement of the alliance’s mutual defence pact.
Mr Trump’s broadside at fellow leaders during his first Nato summit came as he unveiled a 9/11 memorial at the alliance’s new US$1.2 billion (Dh4.4bn) headquarters in Brussels which is meant to highlight allied unity and purpose.
Mr Trump said the bombing in Manchester on Monday, claimed by ISIL, showed that “terrorism must be stopped in its tracks”.
“The Nato of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and Nato’s eastern and southern borders,” the president said.
He denounced allies for not paying their fair share, saying that even if they met a commitment to allocate two per cent of GDP to defence, it would still not be enough to meet the challenges.
“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defence,” Mr Trump said.
“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” he said, repeating a charge he had raised constantly on the campaign trail.
Ahead of Mr Trump’s visit, the White House had sent signals that the US would stay in Nato’s mutual defense pact, known as Article 5, which has been invoked just once: after the September 11 attacks. But Mr Trump made no mention of Article 5 during his speech.
Asked about this, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said: “It goes without saying. His presence at this event underscores our commitments and treaty obligations.”
The German chancellor Angela Merkel struck an entirely different note as she unveiled a memorial made up of a section of the Berlin Wall to mark the end of the Cold War.
“Germany will not forget the contribution Nato made in order to reunify our country. This is why we will indeed make our contribution to security and solidarity in the common alliance,” she said.
The surprising mention of immigration was in line with one of Mr Trump’s key election promises to build a wall to keep out immigrants crossing into the United States from Mexico, a plan widely derided in Europe.
His harsh words came despite Nato saying it would formally endorse joining the US-led coalition against ISIL at the summit, in the face of reservations in France and Germany about getting involved in another conflict.
Mr Trump’s carefully choreographed visits to the European Union and Nato in Brussels had been designed to heal divisions caused by the billionaire’s criticism of both institutions on the campaign trail. He had called Nato “obsolete” and praised Britain’s Brexit vote to leave the EU.
But differences immediately emerged after his talks with the EU’s top officials Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker on climate change, trade, and above all Russia, whose alleged ties to current and former members of the Trump administration are under investigation in the US.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure that we can say today – ‘we’ means Mr President and myself – that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia,” said Mr Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland.
Mr Trump had made restoring relations with Russia a key campaign promise but he has faced bitter opposition in Washington and has since become embroiled in scandal over the alleged links to Moscow.
Mr Tusk also called for “western values” to be promoted, challenging Mr Trump’s world view that self-interested deals best settle international problems.
The US president came to Brussels direct from a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, after visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
On his arrival on Wednesday in Brussels, the city he once said had been turned into a “hellhole” by Muslim immigration, the president was greeted by around 9,000 protesters saying “Trump not welcome.”
* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press