US President Donald Trump today made a U-turn on his previous stand on NATO and said that the military alliance is no longer obsolete.
Trump also reaffirmed his commitment to NATO as tensions rose between the US and Russia over Syria.
“I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete,” Trump told reporters at a joint White House news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“It’s my hope that NATO will take on an increased role in supporting our Iraqi partners in their battle against the ISIS,” he said about NATO which was formed in 1949. Trump had repeatedly questioned the value of the alliance and made overtures to Russia during his presidential campaign. Trump acknowledged that America’s relationship with Russia “may be at an all-time low”.
“Right now we are not getting along with Russia at all,” Trump said.
“It would be wonderful... if NATO and our country could get along with Russia,” Trump said yesterday amid a deepening war of words with the Kremlin.
Trump’s remarks come as his administration criticised Russia’s support for Syrian leader President Bashar al-Assad and questioned the Kremlin’s interference in elections in Montenegro.
Trump, earlier, labelled Assad a “butcher and told allies it was time to end Syria’s “brutal” civil war. Trump also supported the admission of Montenegro into the 28-member NATO.
On Monday, he signed the protocol to approve the 29th, the country of Montenegro.
“In the coming months and years, I’ll work closely with all of our NATO allies to enhance this partnership and to adapt to the challenges of the future, of which there will be many. This includes upgrading their focus on today’s most pressing security and all of its challenges, including migration and terrorism,” Trump said.
Observing that NATO countries must work together to resolve the disaster currently taking place in Syria, Trump appreciated the support of NATO members and partners in their condemnation of Assad’s murderous attack. “The vicious slaughter of innocent civilians with chemical weapons, including the barbaric killing of small and helpless children and babies, must be forcefully rejected by any nation that values human life. It is time to end this brutal civil war, defeat terrorists, and allow refugees to return home,” he said.
“In facing our common challenges, we must also ensure that NATO members meet their financial obligations and pay what they owe. Many have not been doing that,” he said. Trump and Stoltenberg agreed that other member nations must satisfy their responsibility to contribute two per cent of the GDP to defence.
“If other countries pay their fair share instead of relying on the United Sates to make up the difference, they will all be much more secure, and the partnership will be made that much stronger,” he said.
Trump is expected to travel to Brussels later this spring to attend the NATO Summit.
(With PTI inputs)