BRUSSELS — President Donald Trump gave his full-throated support for NATO in an impromptu press conference Thursday following a harried morning that included an emergency session of NATO leaders called to address the spending issue amid swirling media reports that the president had threatened to pull the U.S. from the alliance.
“The United States’ commitment to NATO is very strong, remains very strong,” Trump said, crediting his fellow NATO leaders for agreeing to increase defense spending levels at a faster rate. “Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy…and now we are very happy.” His spoken comments were a sharp turnaround from his tweeted criticisms of the alliance and its members during the week.
“I believe in NATO, I think NATO is very important, probably the greatest ever done,” he said.
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Trump’s reassuring words put to ease a collective near-panic at the NATO conference after the U.S. president tweeted a new demand that members up defense spending to 4 percent of their GDP, double the current pledge. German press reported that Trump threatened to quit NATO if members did not comply, but Reuters later cited two sources saying no threat was made. The Associated Press later reported French President Emmanuel Macron said Trump ”never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO.”
When asked if he would leave the alliance under any circumstance, Trump replied that such a threat was no longer necessary.
“This was a fantastic two days. It all came together in the end. And yes, it was a little tough for a little while, but you can ask anyone at the meeting…it was a great, great spirit leaving that room,” he said.
Trump departed NATO headquarters shortly after the meeting.