- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2018

President Trump has reportedly sent letters to at least four NATO allies, criticizing their low defense spending and implying that he and the American people will not tolerate this for much longer.

The letters were sent last month, The New York Times reported Monday afternoon ahead of a NATO summit meeting last week, and were received by at least the heads of government of Germany, Belgium, Norway and Canada.

“As we discussed during your visit in April, there is growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised,” Mr. Trump wrote to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, The Times reported. “Continued German underspending on defense undermines the security of the alliance and provides validation for other allies that also do not plan to meet their military spending commitments, because others see you as a role model.”

The Times cited “someone who saw [the letter to Mrs. Merkel] and shared excerpts” with its reporters.

Mr. Trump said in at least three of the letters that while “domestic political pressure” might account for the nations’ breaking the 2014 agreement that all NATO countries should spend 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product on their militaries, he noted that he had spent “considerable political capital to increase our own military spending” and said he couldn’t guarantee that he’d be able to do it forever if other NATO countries weren’t doing a better job.

“It will, however, become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries do not share NATO’s collective security burden while American soldiers continue to sacrifice their lives overseas or come home gravely wounded,” he wrote to Mrs. Merkel, similar to the wording in letters to Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau of Canada and Erna Solberg of Norway.

The existence of, and some details about, some of the notes had been reported by foreign news outlets before Monday.

The U.S. has always spent a bigger share of its economic output on its military than other NATO members, even during the height of the Cold War, and American politicians have long complained about it.

But Mr. Trump has been unusually sharp and pointed in his rhetoric, and has frosty relations with many of the first-world’s leaders, culminating in a breakdown at the annual Group of 7 meeting last month in Quebec, Canada. NATO heads of government gather next week in Brussels.

“The president wants a strong NATO,” National Security Adviser John R. Bolton said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “If you think Russia’s a threat, ask yourself this question: Why is Germany spending less than 1.2 percent of its G.N.P.? When people talk about undermining the NATO alliance, you should look at those who are carrying out steps that make NATO less effective militarily.”

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