4 April marks NATO’s 70th birthday and Alliance foreign ministers are meeting in Washington, DC, to review global threats and challenges, such as ongoing tensions with Russia, US and Russian withdrawal from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and NATO’s increasing presence in the Black Sea region.
On 2 April US President Donald Trump welcomed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the White House, telling the media that his pressure on NATO nations to pay more for their defence is leading to tens of billions of dollars more in contributions, but allies may need to boost their budgets even further. Trump said his tactics have paid off. "Since I came to office it's a rocket ship up. We've picked up over $140 billion in additional money, and we look like we're going to have at least another $100 billion in spending by the nations till 2020."
The Trump administration has insisted time and time again that NATO members spend 2% of GDP on defence, as agreed at the Wales Summit in 2014. The President singled out Germany for not doing enough, stating "Germany honestly is not paying their fair share [….] They're not paying what they should be paying. They're paying close to one percent." He also said that a stronger NATO provides a bulwark against Russia but believed relations with Moscow will be fine. Although he knows full well that the relationship with Russia is difficult and full of tensions, he stated optimistically "I think we'll get along with Russia."
Speaking to the media in Brussels on 1 April, Stoltenberg said that tensions with Russia, NATO’s role in the fight against international terrorism and burden-sharing will be high on the agenda for the foreign ministers. He expects them also to address issues such as the INF Treaty, the situation in Afghanistan and the accession plans for Ukraine and Georgia.
Prior to departing for Washington, Stoltenberg praised the development of the Atlantic Alliance in a keynote speech. “In 2019, just as in 1949 and 1989, NATO is adapting to a more complex and unpredictable world. This is what has made us the most successful alliance in history, faced with the greatest security challenges in a generation.” He also emphasised that conflict has been a “constant companion” in Europe’s history and that peace is an exception, not the rule. Despite several political crises and military conflicts, Stoltenberg concluded with a positive assessment of the past seven decades and said that in times of great uncertainties “NATO remains an anchor of stability and a beacon of hope.”