United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday expressed dissatisfaction with trade between the US and the European Union (EU), stating the latter makes it hard for USA's farmers and workers to do business in Europe.
During the meetings, he demanded via a tweet that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries "Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025" and then rattled them further by privately suggesting member nations should spend 4 percent of their gross domestic product on defense - a bigger share than even the United States now pays, according to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation statistics. But he quickly honed on in Germany in a terse face-to-face exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Trump has repeatedly denounced low levels of defense spending among remaining members, particularly Germany.
"Everybody's talking about it all over the world, they're saying we're paying you billions of dollars to protect you but you're paying billions of dollars to Russian Federation".
The feud over defense spending looks set to overshadow other business at the two-day summit.
"I felt, we all felt, that we needed more time for a discussion on burden sharing", Stoltenberg explained to reporters afterward - even though the summit statement had been signed the previous day.
Radev said that, on the other hand, Trump was right, because each country should make a contribution, in a world of growing threats, and build effective capabilities. He said he would "probably" be able to have the USA leave the mutual defense organization with no Congress approval, but insisted that after his perceived diplomatic success the Alliance would be "a very, very powerful, very, very strong" organization that America would be perfectly fine to stay in. "We want to find out about Syria", Trump said. It's very detailed", he said adding, "It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024.
'Otherwise, we're going to buy them from somebody else, ' Trump said.
"And frankly, maybe everybody is going to have a good relationship with Russian Federation, so there will be a lot less problem with the pipeline", Trump said.
"I have to tell you that the atmosphere last night at dinner was very open, was very constructive and it was very positive", Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the president of Croatia, told reporters.
German Chancellor Merkel hit back immediately, not only denying Trump's contention but suggesting that his comfortable upbringing in the USA gave him no standing to spout off on the world stage about Germany.
And he said Canada has promised to reverse a decline in military resources with an eye towards the two per cent target.
Trump, who went to the United Kingdom after the gathering in the Belgian capital, is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.
"The alliance is very important and I think there's ways of communicating our displeasure with things without trying to insult and break the alliance apart", said Corker.
Other leaders, however, played down the extent to which they went beyond existing commitments to increase contributions to their own defence, as Trump demanded they share more of what he calls an unfair burden on US taxpayers in funding an alliance focused on discouraging pressure from a resurgent Moscow.