- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 3, 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on the United States and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (all times local):

2:40 p.m.

In the first address to Congress by a NATO head, Jens Stoltenberg has acknowledged serious divisions within the alliance.

He also has called for bigger defense budgets to cope with global challenges such as Russian assertiveness, the core reason NATO was created in Washington 70 years ago this week.

The NATO secretary general said: “We have to be frank. Questions are being asked on both sides of the Atlantic about the strength of our partnership. And, yes, there are differences.”



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10:35 a.m.

The head of NATO is using the alliance’s 70th anniversary to make an unprecedented pitch to a joint meeting of Congress for trans-Atlantic unity.

Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday will be the first NATO secretary-general to make such an address.

The venue highlights the strained relations between President Donald Trump and NATO members that have long looked to the United States for leadership and support in defending Europe and North America.

Trump has questioned the value of NATO, its benefit to the United States and the motive of members he considers to be freeloaders.

Stoltenberg is a two-time former prime minister of Norway and has praised Trump for pushing members to spend more on defense. He said before his speech that the invitation to appear before Congress was an expression U.S. public support.

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12:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump wants NATO members to continue increasing their financial contributions, offering allies his praise for stepping up those contributions in recent years but still complaining the U.S. continues to carry more than its share of costs.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited the White House on Tuesday ahead of an address to Congress that’s scheduled for Wednesday. His trip to the U.S. comes as the alliance marks its 70th anniversary.

Trump took credit for the increased defense spending by NATO members even though the upswing began before Trump took office.

After Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, member countries agreed to boost defense budgets and “move toward” spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. The U.S. spends about 3.4% of its GDP on defense.

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