Trump sparks chaos on the way to UK with Nato pullout threat

Protesters bang pans outside the US ambassador residence in Regent's Park. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Protesters bang pans outside the US ambassador residence in Regent's Park. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
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Donald Trump provoked chaos in Brussels and embarrassment in London before boarding Air Force one to come to the UK by threatening to pull out of Nato and questioning Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

There is a communique that was published yesterday. It’s very detailed. It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That’s all


The US President sent Nato allies reeling with a warning that the US “could do it’s own thing” unless they increased their defence budgets.

And after describing the UK as being in “turmoil” earlier in the week, Mr Trump gave a boost to Theresa May’s political opponents just hours before she was due to welcome him, saying of her Brexit strategy: “I don’t know if that is what they voted for.”

In Brussels, French President Emmanuel Macron denied accounts of private talks during a summit of Nato leaders, telling journalists: “President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from Nato.”

However, Mr Trump’s intervention drew an immediate response, with leaders and officials going into an emergency session while the US President staged a remarkable press conference to claim: “We are doing numbers like we’ve never seen before.”

Only five out of the 29 Nato members currently spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence, a target set by the alliance for 2024.

However, the US President suggested he wanted the target to rise to 4 per cent of GDP. “The commitment was 2 per cent, ultimately it will be going up quite a bit higher than that,” he said.

Mr Trump has repeatedly complained about the cost to the US from collective defence and during the presidential election campaign said Nato was “obsolete”.

At yesterday’s press conference, he repeated an inaccurate claim that the US “pays for 70 to 90 per cent of Nato” and claimed credit for spending increases that had already been announced.

“For years presidents have been coming to these meetings and have talked about the tremendous expense to the US, and tremendous progress has been made,” Mr Trump said.

“I told people that I’d be very unhappy if they did not up their commitments very substantially... Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitments, they’ve agreed to up them to levels that they have never thought of before.”

Mr Trump insisted that “the US commitment to Nato remains very strong, but primarily because of the spirit that everyone has, the amount of money they’re willing to spend… the level of spirit in that room is incredible.”

The US President claimed he had secured an additional $33bn from other Nato countries over the past year, although this had already been planned.

Mr Macron also denied the claim that Nato allies have agreed to boost defence spending beyond 2 per cent of GDP.

The French President said: “There is a communique that was published yesterday. It’s very detailed.

“It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That’s all.”

Over the course of the tense two-day summit, Mr Trump had targeted Angela Merkel, accusing Germany of being a “captive” of Russia over a controversial gas pipeline, criticising German defence spending, and threatening to impose tariffs on German-made cars exported to the US.

She refused to respond to his criticism, telling reporters in Brussels that “there was a clear commitment to Nato by all.”

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told journalists: “All allies have heard President Trump’s message loud and clear.”

Following his visit to the UK, the US President will meet Vladimir Putin for talks in Helsinki, and Mr Trump failed to rule out recognising Russia’s annexation of Crimea, saying the 2014 invasion of the Ukrainian territory was the fault of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, asked about his visit to the UK, Mr Trump described it as a “hot spot right now with a lot of resignations” and questioned the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan on the next stage of Brexit.

“I would say Brexit is Brexit,” he said. “The people voted to break it up, so I would imagine that’s what they would do.”