WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday walked back criticism he lobbed at NATO on the campaign trail, calling it an “enduring partnership” that will help the United States fight international terrorism.
“I said it was obsolete, it’s no longer obsolete,” Trump said at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday.
Trump and Stoltenberg each said they had a “productive” meeting on Wednesday, where they discussed how NATO would fight the growing threat of international terrorism and address the issue of some members of the alliance not contributing the full amount they had committed to. Trump made the issue a major foreign policy point during his campaign, and repeatedly raised it at Wednesday’s press conference.
“If other countries pay 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,” Trump said Wednesday.
Stoltenberg agreed that it is important for member countries to meet their financial commitments to the alliance and said the issue would come up when alliance leaders meet in May. He also gave credit to Trump for bringing the issue into focus.
“We agree that allies need to redouble their efforts to meet the pledge we all made in 2014 to invest more in our alliance,” Stoltenberg said at the press conference.
Trump later quipped they would need to further discuss what would become of the money member countries were supposed to contribute to NATO but didn’t.
During the campaign Trump roundly criticized the alliance, which came into being in 1949 as a collective defense network against the Soviet Union. In March 2016 he said NATA “was set up in a different time” and that the U.S. should rethink its commitment to the alliance because it was too expensive.
Trump’s commitment to NATO comes at a time when, by his own assessment, U.S.-Russia relations are at “an all time low.”
Trump and Stoltenberg also fielded a number of questions on the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria last week, and both affirmed NATO is committed to condemning chemical weapons attacks.
He said it is “possible” but “unlikely” that Russia knew about the chemical weapons attack before it took place.