President Donald Trump is hosting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House Wednesday, where the two men are expected to discuss Trump’s commitment to the organization.
After the meeting, Trump and Stoltenberg are scheduled to meet with reporters, where they will likely face more questions about the U.S. commitment to NATO and Trump’s insistence that other NATO countries shoulder more of the burden for defense spending.
Ahead of the meeting, a senior White House official said Trump is “100 percent committed to NATO.”
This comes after Trump, as recently as January, called NATO “obsolete” due to its inability to thwart several terrorist attacks and because “it was designed many, many years ago.”
Still, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, the president has “made it very clear, repeatedly, that he is very committed to NATO.”
Along with reaffirming the U.S. commitment to NATO, Trump and Stoltenberg are expected to discuss NATO’s role in fighting global terror and Trump’s repeated assertions that other NATO countries don’t pay their fair share for defense spending.
‘Likely to see eye-to-eye’
The White House official said he doesn’t expect an “awkward conversation” because Trump and Stoltenberg are “likely to see eye-to-eye” on the issue of increased spending among NATO countries.
All NATO countries have agreed to spend two percent of their gross domestic product on their own defense by 2024, but only a few of the member-countries currently meet that goal.
Last month, after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump said Germany “owes vast sums of money to NATO” and said the country needs to pay the U.S. more for the “powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides Germany.”
The U.S. spends about three percent of its GDP on defense, while Germany spends about 1.2 percent.
On Monday, Trump gave his official approval Tuesday for Montenegro to join NATO, marking another step forward in the tiny Balkan country’s quest for NATO membership.
The White House official said the Trump administration is “very concerned about the Russians’ interference in October elections in Montenegro.”
Russia has described Montenegro’s NATO membership as a “provocation” due to the country’s geographical proximity to Russia. The Kremlin has long seen the Balkans as inside its “sphere of influence.”