Trump News Conference in Brussels: 'NATO Is Much Stronger Now Than It Was 2 Days Ago'

By Susan Jones | July 12, 2018 | 7:08 AM EDT

President Trump speaks to reporters at the end of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 12, 2018. (Photo: Screen capture)

( - "I think that NATO is much stronger now than it was two days ago," President Donald Trump told a news conference on Thursday at the end of what he called "an amazing two-day period in Brussels."

"I told people that I'd be very unhappy if they didn't up their commitments very substantially, because the United States has been paying a tremendous amount, probably 90 percent of the cost of NATO. And now people are going to start -- and countries are going to start upping their commitment."

President Trump said he let members know on Wednesday he was "extremely unhappy with what was happening, and they have substantially upped their commitment, and now we're very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO -- much stronger than it was two days ago."

A reporter asked Trump to be specific: "Can you clarify, what did they commit to doing?"

“What they're doing is spending at a much faster clip, they're going up to the two percent level,” Trump said.

"Now you have to understand, some of them have parliaments, they have their own congresses, they have a lot of things they have to go through, so you know they're here as a pm or a as president and they can't necessarily go in and say this is what we're going to do, but they're going back for approvals.

"Some are at 2 percent, others have agreed definitely to go to 2 percent, and some are going back to get the approval, and which they will get, to go to 2 percent. After 2 percent, we'll start talking about going higher. But I said ultimately we should be in years in advance, we should be at 4 percent. I think 4 percent is the right number."

Trump admitted he was "very firm" on Wednesday, but he also noted he wasn't saying anything he didn't say at last year's gathering.

"I believe in NATO; I think NATO's a very important -- probably the greatest ever done, but the United States was paying for anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of it, depending on the way you calculate. That's not fair to the United States."

The president noted that he would be meeting with the European Union next week, and he hinted that he's bringing a similar message to them: "We've been treated very unfairly on trade, our farmers have been shut out the European Union," Trump said. "So I think we're going to be ultimately treated fairly on trade -- we'll see what happens, but I can tell you that NATO now is really a fine-tuned machine. People are paying money that they never paid before -- they're happy to do it -- and the United States is being treated much more fairly."

Trump said Germany is "coming along" as far as upping its contribution to NATO, "but we still have to figure out what's going on with the pipeline," he added.

"I brought it up, nobody brought it up but me, and we all are talking about it now. Actually, I think the world is talking about it now more than anything else. But we're going to figure that out. And frankly, maybe everyone's going to have a good relationship with Russia, so there'll be a lot less problem with the pipeline. But to me that was a very major point of contention. We discussed it at length today...We have a very good relationship with Angela Merkel."

A reporter asked Trump if he's "potentially" threatening to pull the U.S. out of NATO "for any reason," and if he believes he can do that without Congressional approval.

"I think I probably can, but that's unnecessary," Trump replied. "And the people have stepped up today like they've never stepped up before."

Trump said NATO members have agreed to pay $33 billion more in defense spending. "And you'll hear that from the (NATO) secretary general in a little while, and he thanked me, actually. He actually thanked me. And everybody in the room thanked me. There's a great collegial spirit in that room that I don't think they've had in many years...very strong, very unified, no problem."

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