President Slams NATO Members

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to unveil artifacts from the World Trade Center and Berlin Wall for the new NATO headquarters, Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Brussels. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump slammed fellow NATO leaders for not meeting financial obligations in a public broadside Thursday that surprised seasoned observers. Some world leaders appeared surprised or bemused as the president said 23 of the 28 member states owed “massive amounts of money” to U.S. tax payers.

Trump was unveiling a piece of the World Trade Center as part of an inauguration ceremony of NATO’s new headquarters when he criticized his fellow leaders for their lack of contributions to the alliance. French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to be cringing while the Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel raised an eyebrow in response. Trump said “2 percent was the bare minimum” countries should be contributing, referring to the 2 percent of GDP NATO advises its members to spend on defense. Most countries, with the exception of the United States, Britain, Estonia, Greece, and Poland, fall short of this target. Referring to the new NATO headquarters building, Trump said “I never asked what it costs, but it’s beautiful.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also unveiled a part of the Berlin Wall that once separated East and West Germany. Trump went on to call for a renewed and united effort to fight terrorism, referring to militants as “losers” who must be driven out of societies and “never ever let back in.” He said the attack this week on concertgoers in the British city of Manchester showed the evils of terrorism. The president then called for a minute of silence for the victims.