Trump Berates NATO Again Over Defence Spending As Key Summit Approaches

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn’t even had time to pack his bags yet for the NATO Summit next week and U.S. President Trump has taken another shot at those allies, like Canada, who haven’t met their defence spending commitments.

“I’m going to see NATO and I’m going to tell NATO, you gotta start paying your bills,” Trump told an audience in Montana Thursday evening. “The United States is not going to take care of everything.”

The NATO summit will be the first time Trump and Trudeau meet since the tempestuous G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Que. They’ll be joined by leaders from the other 27 NATO countries. The Prime Minister’s Office said the two men spoke on the telephone a week ago for the first time since their now-infamous falling out after the summit.

During their conversation Trudeau is said to have told Trump that Canada had no choice but to levy reciprocal tariffs on U.S. goods on July 1. Canada’s retaliation against U.S. tariffs was the latest development in a growing trade dispute that’s boiled over during negotiations for an updated North American Free Trade Agreement.

Criticism of NATO allies for the contributions they make to the alliance has been a theme of Trump’s.

NATO countries agreed in 2014 to spend two per cent of GDP on defence by 2024. Canada’s defence spending was estimated at 1.29 per cent of GDP in 2017, while the U.S. spent 3.57 per cent of GDP on defence. Only three other NATO countries: Greece, 2.36 per cent; the U.K., 2.12 per cent and Estonia, 2.08 per cent, reached the target last year.

Trump sent letters to Canada and other allies who spend below the two per cent, a copy of which was obtained by iPolitics, calling on them to improve their defence spending, less than three weeks ago.

The PMO intends to release details of Trudeau’s bilateral meetings closer to the NATO Summit. The prime minister will visit Latvia on Monday and Tuesday, where he’ll be joined by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Canada’s chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, for meetings with Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and President Raimonds Vejonis in Riga, Latvia.

Canada commands and supplies 455 troops to a NATO deterrence mission in Latvia, established following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Sean French, said the Forces he commands has only encountered Russia through its state-media-led disinformation campaign.

Trump will visit the U.K. after the NATO meeting, where he is expected to be greeted by massive protests. Then he’ll head to Helsinki, Finland where he will sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16. At Thursday’s campaign rally, Trump mocked critics for disparaging the meeting.

“Getting along with Russia and getting along with China and getting along with other countries is a good thing, it’s not a bad thing,” Trump said.

“Putin’s fine. He’s fine. We’re all fine. We’re people. Will I be prepared? Totally prepared. I’ve been preparing for this stuff my whole life,” Trump said.

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