WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — NATO is no longer obsolete, Donald Trump told a press conference in a dramatic reversal of his position after holding talks at the White House with alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“I said it [NATO] was obsolete: It’s no longer obsolete,” Trump told the press conference on Wednesday.
The statement marked a dramatic reversal after months of consistent policy statements by Trump through the 2016 US election campaign and since he was sworn in as US president on January 20 when he repeatedly criticized the 28-member NATO alliance as outmoded.
Trump said NATO still needed overhauling and repeated his often-stated calls for other members of the venerable security organization to pay more toward their common military cooperation and carry a greater share of the alliance’s burdens.
But Trump made clear he wanted to strengthen NATO, not to dismantle, shrink or weaken it.
“On my visit to Brussels this spring… we will work together. We… must apply new solutions to face new circumstances… [and] reaffirm our commitment to this alliance and to the enduring values that we very proudly share,” Trump said.
“We must work together to solve the disaster taking place in Syria,” he added. “It is time to end this brutal civil war, defeat terrorists and allow refugees to return home.”
Trump repeated his demand that other NATO member nations must pay their “fair share” of its costs instead of relying on the United States.
“We must also ensure that NATO members must meet their financial obligations… Many have not been doing that… If other countries paid their fair share instead of relying on the United States we would all be more secure and stronger,” the US president insisted.
Trump also made clear he envisaged NATO playing a far larger role in the campaign to destroy Daesh (outlawed in Russia) and to take a leading role in combating terrorism around the world.
“It is my hope that NATO will take on an increased role in the battle against ISIS [Daesh],” he said.
Trump expressed his hope that Europeans will have nothing to fear from Russia as he seeks to deescalate tensions.
“There won’t be fear of anybody. That’s the way it should be,” he said, adding a bold vow to solve all the world’s security conflicts by the end of his term.
Stoltenberg expressed full agreement with Trump on the issues of fairer burden-sharing with the United States by other NATO members and on expanding the organization’s role in the Global War on Terror.
“NATO can and must do more in the global fight against terrorism. NATO has the experience the expertise and the staying power to make a real difference… The other major topic will be burden sharing in our alliance. Mr. President, I thank you for your attention to this issue,” he said.
Stoltenberg remarked that NATO members had finally reversed a long trend of paying diminishing proportions of their gross domestic product every year on defense.
“We have now turned a corner… In 2016, for the first time in many years we saw an increase in defense spending of 3.8 percent or $10 billion more in our defense,” he said.
Stoltenberg also insisted that NATO had to build up its military forces in Eastern European nations close to Russia.
“One element of that [increased preparedness] is to increase our military presence in the eastern part of the alliance… increasing the readiness and the presence of our armed forces… We consider the presence when the four battle groups are in place as sufficient for peace in Europe,” he said.
Stoltenberg claimed that the military buildup posed no threat to Russia.
“It is defensive. We believe there is no contradiction between a strong nation and a condition for credible dialogue with Russia is that we are strong and we are united,” he said.
Russian officials have repeatedly expressed concern over the US and NATO military build-up on its borders as being a destabilizing rather than a stabilizing force in Europe.
“I strongly believe that the only way to deter Russia is to be strong,” he said.
Stoltenberg also said he was determined to deploy more NATO troops in the eastern part of the alliance.
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