Trump is still extremely confused about NATO

"Will they reimburse the U.S.?"

TRUMP DEPARTS THE WHITE HOUSE ON TUESDAY. (CREDIT: Al Drago/Getty Images)
TRUMP DEPARTS THE WHITE HOUSE ON TUESDAY. (CREDIT: Al Drago/Getty Images)

While on Air Force One en route to Belgium for a NATO summit, President Trump took to Twitter to attack the alliance, going so far as to suggest he expects member nations that haven’t spent enough on defense to reimburse the United States.

“Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2% (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made,” Trump tweeted. “Will they reimburse the U.S.?”

Trump’s tweet, which was the third one he directed against America’s NATO allies on Tuesday alone, reveals a profound misunderstanding of how NATO funding actually works.

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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.

Not only that, but Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. is entitled to a “reimbursement” is absurd. 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.”

Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, tried to make this point to Trump in a string of tweets posted in response to Trump’s attacks on NATO last year.

Trump’s first trip to a NATO summit in 2017 went poorly. During a speech in which Trump neglected to reaffirm the United States’s commitment to a provision of the NATO treaty guaranteeing that member countries come to each others’ defense in the event of an attack , Trump criticized member countries for their alleged “chronic underpayments.” While Trump spoke, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel could be seen snickering with each other.

Fracturing the NATO alliance has long been a goal of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump is scheduled to meet with in Helsinki following the NATO summit. Before boarding Air Force One on Monday, Trump said he’s bringing a gift for Putin, and added that his meeting with the Russian strongman — who he’s under investigation for colluding with during the last presidential election — “may be the easiest” of his trip.