NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US President Donald Trump meet at Winfield House in London on December 3, 2019. -AFP
US President Donald Trump lashed out at European allies before a NATO anniversary summit in London on Tuesday, singling out France's Emmanuel Macron for "very nasty" comments on the alliance and Germany for spending too little on defence.
Underlining the breadth of strife in a transatlantic bloc hailed by its backers as the most successful military alliance in history, Trump demanded that Europe pay more for defence and also make concessions to US interests on trade.
The attack echoed a similar tirade by Trump ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organis-ation's last summit in July 2018. It will add to the growing doubts over the future of the 29-member alliance, described last month by Macron as "brain dead" in the run-up to a London meeting intended to be a 70th anniversary celebration.
"It's a tough statement, though, when you make a statement like that, that is a very, very nasty statement to essentially 28, including them, 28 countries," Trump told reporters as he met the head of NATO in London.
"Nobody needs NATO more than France," he said, adding that France, where Macron is seeking to push through delicate reforms of a large state sector, was "not doing well economically".
In an interview with the Economist last month, Macron made headlines by faulting NATO for failing to update its strategy to respond to newer threats such as instability in Syria.
Trump explicitly linked his complaint that Europe does not pay enough for NATO's security missions to his staunch "America First" defence of US commercial interests, saying it was time for Europe to "shape up" on both fronts.
"It's not right to be taken advantage of on NATO and also then to be taken advantage of on trade, and that's what happens. We can't let that happen," he said of transatlantic disputes over everything from the aerospace sector to a European "digital tax" on US technology giants.
Dismissing recent signals from Germany that it was ready to do more to match a NATO target of spending two percent of national output on defence, Trump accused it and other nations which spend less than that of being "delinquent".
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