President Donald Trump met with Finnish president Sauli Niinistö Monday, ahead of his scheduled summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
According to reporters, Trump thanked the Finnish president for his support and said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has never been stronger.
“I enjoyed being with you a couple of days ago. NATO has, I think, never been stronger. It was a little bit tough at the beginning, but it turned out to be love. I appreciated your support,” Trump said in his opening remarks.
Finland, however, is not in NATO.
Trump in opening remarks to Finnish President in Helsinki thanks him for his support, and says NATO has never been stronger. Finland isn't in NATO.
— Henry Foy (@HenryJFoy) July 16, 2018
That President Trump doesn’t fully understand which countries are in a military alliance with the United States should come as no surprise, considering how Trump handled the NATO summit last week.
In Brussels, NATO dignitaries were shocked by Trump’s veiled threat to withdraw from the alliance unless other countries increased their defense spending. According to a tweet Trump sent while at the NATO summit, the president believes the United States is “paying for Europe’s protection.”
What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
While it’s true that only a handful of the 28 member countries currently spend 2 percent or more of their GDP on defense, a 2014 agreement gave all of them a decade to get to the 2 percent level. As CNN details, member nations are largely on track to meet that goal. In the meantime, there is no firm commitment as to how much each country should spend.
Trump also believes that the nation’s European allies owe the United States a “reimbursement” for “falling short.” This is an absurd claim. As the Guardian explains, since each country contributes toward the organization in accordance with their capabilities, NATO members “do not ‘owe’ or have to compensate any other country.”
Despite this, in Trump’s mind, the NATO summit was “truly great.”
“Received many calls from leaders of NATO countries thanking me for helping to bring them together and to get them focused on financial obligations, both present & future,” he tweeted early Monday morning, ahead of his meeting with Putin. “We had a truly great Summit that was inaccurately covered by much of the media. NATO is now strong & rich!”
Received many calls from leaders of NATO countries thanking me for helping to bring them together and to get them focused on financial obligations, both present & future. We had a truly great Summit that was inaccurately covered by much of the media. NATO is now strong & rich!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018
Trump’s blunder in Brussels has taken a toll on the nation’s relationship with its vital allies.
Germany’s foreign minister announced Monday that the government can “no longer completely rely on the White House.” And last week, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel also criticized Trump’s suggestion that the nation was not paying its fair share.
“Germany does a lot for NATO,” she said, speaking to reporters. “Germany is the second largest provider of troops, the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement towards Afghanistan. In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”
Correction: An earlier version of the story referred to NATO as the “North American Treaty Organization” instead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It has since been corrected.