Donald Trump to meet NATO leaders in May
PALM BEACH, FloridaU.S. President Donald Trump will meet fellow NATO leaders in May, the White House said on Feb. 5 after the president spoke with the alliance’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg.
Trump expressed “strong support for NATO” but called on European members to pitch in more, the White House said in a statement, adding that Trump “agreed to join in a meeting of NATO leaders in Europe in late May.”
While NATO is expected to hold a high-level summit in Brussels in late May, it was not made clear whether Trump would attend the meeting.
“The parties agreed to continue close coordination and cooperation to address the full range of security challenges facing NATO,” the White House statement said.
The United States provides significant funding to NATO, and Trump has previously urged other member nations to step up their contributions.
“The leaders discussed how to encourage all NATO allies to meet their defense spending commitments,” the Feb. 5 statement added.
European leaders are concerned about Trump’s virulent criticism of NATO – he has dubbed the transatlantic military alliance “obsolete” – at a time when it stands as the main defense against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the White House statement the parties also discussed “the potential for a peaceful resolution of the conflict along the Ukrainian border.”
Kyiv and the West have accused Russia of supporting eastern Ukrainian rebels and deploying troops across the border, claims that Moscow refutes.
Trump’s friendly stance toward Putin has been under scrutiny since he won the U.S. election in November last year.
Trump has drawn fire at home for wanting to warm up ties with Putin.
In an interview broadcast on Feb. 5 during Fox Channel’s Super Bowl pre-game show, Trump waved off concern from interviewer Bill O’Reilly that “Putin’s a killer.”
“We’ve got a lot of killers...You think our country’s so innocent? You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump said, citing the 2003 war in Iraq.
NATO starts anti-ISIL bomb training in Iraq
Meanwhile, NATO began training Iraqi soldiers on how to defuse bombs planted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the alliance said Feb. 5, expanding a program already in place in neighboring Jordan.
About 30 soldiers are taking part in the first five-week course on countering the deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Since last month, NATO advisers in Iraq have been overseeing courses on civil-military cooperation and overhauls of security institutions.
But until now, the training of Iraqi forces in areas such as de-mining and ordnance disposal has taken place in Jordan.
“The best weapon we have in the fight against terrorism is to train local forces,” Stoltenberg was quoted as saying in a statement from the alliance. “A more effective Iraqi military means a safer Iraq, and a more stable Middle East.”
Alliance members had agreed to the expanded training at their summit meeting in Warsaw last July.
Since October last year, NATO has also deployed its AWACS surveillance planes in the region to bolster the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIL, in a move that was also decided at the Warsaw summit.
The planes are one of the few concrete assets that NATO has, with most of its military hardware belonging to individual member states.