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Trump Meets NATO Officials In Brussels

May 25, 2017
Originally published on May 25, 2017 6:46 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump's America first mantra can sometimes put him at odds with America's longtime allies, including the countries that make up NATO. Today, the president is sitting face-to-face with leaders of the alliance he at one point called obsolete. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is traveling with the president, and she joins us now. Hi, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: What's the president's message to NATO members today?

KEITH: Pay your fair share. Do your part. There's an agreement that the nations have had to try to get to spending about 2 percent of their nation's GDP on national defense. Most of them aren't there yet. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came back on Air Force One to talk to reporters yesterday afternoon. And he said that President Trump is really going to push them on this.

MARTIN: So...

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REX TILLERSON: I think you can expect the president to be very tough on them - saying, look, the U.S. is spending 4 percent. We're doing a lot. The American people are doing a lot for your security, for our joint security. You need to make sure you're doing your share for your own security as well. So I think, you know, that's going to be the core of his message to NATO.

KEITH: Yeah, and the president also wants NATO to formally join, as the full coalition, the anti-ISIS coalition. Individual countries are already part of it. But the idea is that if NATO does it as a whole, it will be important symbolically and also could make some small changes around the edges.

MARTIN: OK, so that's what the president wants. What are NATO members seeking in return?

KEITH: Well, they want the president who has been sort of noncommittal about whether NATO is obsolete or not - first, as a candidate, he said it was obsolete. Then, as president, he said, oh, no, never mind; it's not obsolete. As a candidate, he also was a little bit squishy about Article 5. This is the part of the NATO charter that says an attack on one nation is an attack on all nations. And we'll find out very soon. The president is going to be delivering remarks in a few moments. And one big question is whether he is going to, in a big way, say, yes, I believe in Article 5.

MARTIN: So are we just going to hear rhetoric at these meetings, or are any agreements, any concrete deals going to be struck?

KEITH: Well, that anti-ISIS coalition, it looks as though the leaders of the NATO nations are poised to agree, as a coalition, to join this anti-ISIL coalition. That would be done tonight. Already, the ambassadors from the NATO countries have said that they want to do that, and they agreed to that last night. So. So that's likely the big headline to come out of it.

MARTIN: OK, so at gatherings like this, there're often one-on-one meetings to the side. President Trump already met with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. Do we know what came out of that and what's ahead for him the rest of the day?

KEITH: So we don't know what came out of that. We know that Prime Minister Theresa May from the United Kingdom is very interested in talking to President Trump about information sharing and intelligence sharing because there is concern that the U.S. is letting things leak out. Tonight, President Trump will be at a working dinner with all of the NATO leaders. That's the big thing that is part of this event.

MARTIN: OK, NPR's Tamara Keith traveling with the president in Brussels. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.