Trump scolds NATO allies for not paying their share for defense

BRUSSELS — President Donald Trump on Thursday chided NATO member countries directly for not meeting their financial commitments to the alliance and declined to reiterate U.S. commitment to the alliance’s mutual defense pledge.

“Members of the alliance must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations,” Trump said. “Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.”

Speaking during the unveiling of a memorial dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 attacks and Article 5 of the NATO charter — under which members pledge to jump to the aid of any member country that is attacked — Trump declined to reiterate U.S. commitment to the provision.

Trump first cast doubt on the provision during his presidential campaign, and NATO members had hoped the president would make clear the U.S. was committed to Article 5 during his remarks on Thursday.

The alliance has only once invoked Article 5: The day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which triggered NATO’s participation in the war in Afghanistan.

Instead, Trump badgered heads of state of the alliance — who stood silently, some shifting uncomfortably during his remarks — that an increased financial commitment was needed to bolster the alliance.

“Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats,” Trump said. “If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism.”

Briefing reporters Wednesday on Air Force One, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “of course we support Article 5,” but declined to say whether Trump would reiterate the U.S.’ adherence to the mutual defense pledge in his NATO remarks.