(CNSNews.com) - In a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said the slaughter of innocent civilians should be forcefully rejected by any nation, and he called on NATO members to work together to resolve the disaster currently taking place in Syria.”
“We are grateful for the support of NATO members and partners in their condemnation of Assad’s murderous attack, using the most horrible weapons. The vicious slaughter of innocent civilians with chemical weapons, including the barbaric killing of small and helpless children and babies, must be forcefully rejected by any nation that values human life. It is time to end this brutal civil war, defeat terrorists, and allow refugees to return home,” Trump said.
The president said he and the secretary general “had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism.”
“I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete; it's no longer obsolete. It’s my hope that NATO will take on an increased role in supporting our Iraqi partners in their battle against ISIS,” Trump said.
He also announced that he’s sending National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster to Afghanistan “to find out how we can make progress alongside our Afghan partners and NATO allies.”
Trump also stressed the need for NATO members to pay what they owe - 2 percent of GDP - instead of relying on the U.S. to pay for it. If members paid their fair share, he said, everyone would be more secure.
“In facing our common challenges, we must also ensure that NATO members meet their financial obligations and pay what they owe. Many have not been doing that. The secretary general and I agree that other member nations must satisfy their responsibility to contribute 2 percent of GDP to defense,” the president said.
“If other countries make their fair share, instead of relying on the United States to make up the difference, we will all be much more secure and our partnership will be made that much stronger,” he added.
Stoltenberg agreed saying NATO members need to contribute their fair share. He said NATO has “turned a corner,” increasing defense spending by $10 billion.
“Fair burden-sharing has been my top priority since taking office. We have now turned a corner. In 2016, for the first time in many years, we saw an increase in defense spending across European allies and Canada -- a real increase of 3.8 percent or $10 billion more for our defense,” the secretary general said.
“We are now working to keep up the momentum, including by developing national plans outlining how to make good on what we agreed in 2014. We know that we all need to contribute our fair share because we need to keep our nations safe in a more dangerous world,” he added.
Stoltenberg said a strong NATO is good for Europe and the U.S.
“We agree that NATO is a bedrock of security, both for Europe and for the United States. Two world wars and a Cold War have taught us all that peace in Europe is not only important for Europeans but is also important for the prosperity and the security of North America, so a strong NATO is good for Europe, but a strong NATO is also good for the United States, Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg said NATO does not want a new cold war. “Russia is our neighbor,” he said.
“The message from NATO is that what we do is proportionate. It is defensive, and we don't want a new Cold War. We don't want a new arms race, and actually we strongly believe that there is no contradiction between a strong NATO, a credible deterrence on defense, and political dialogue with Russia,” Stoltenberg said.
“Actually, we believe that a precondition for the political dialogue with Russia is that we are strong and that we are united, but based on that, we can talk to Russia because Russia is our neighbor, Russia is here to stay, so we have to find ways to manage our relationship with Russia,” he added.
The secretary general said NATO plays a key role in the fight against terrorism.
“All NATO allies are part of the global coalition to counter ISIL, and NATO provides support to the coalition with training for Iraqi forces in their fight against terrorists and more intelligence-sharing,” Stoltenberg said. “We have established a new division for intelligence, which enhances our ability to fight terrorism, and working together in the alliance to fight terrorism in an even more effective way.
“But we agreed today, you and I, that NATO can, and must, do more in the global fight against terrorism. In the fight against terrorism, training local forces is one of the best weapons we have. NATO has the experience, the expertise, and the staying power to make a real difference, and fighting terrorism will be an important topic when NATO leaders meet in Brussels in May,” he said.