Mr. Trump strongly recommitted American support for NATO on Thursday, saying that he had won great concessions from allies on military spending, though he did not offer any details.
“The United States was not being treated fairly, but now we are,” the president said at a news conference after the NATO leaders held an emergency meeting to address Mr. Trump’s complaints. “I believe in NATO.”
But if his public remarks were friendly, the tone behind closed doors was much harsher.
According to a person briefed on Mr. Trump’s meeting with other NATO leaders, Mr. Trump said that if the other countries did not meet the 2 percent standard by January, the United States “would go it alone.”
What that would mean was not clear to the officials who were present, but it prompted fears in diplomatic circles about the future of the alliance.
White House officials did not immediately respond to requests to explain Mr. Trump’s comment or to say whether “go it alone” was a threat that the United States could withdraw from NATO.
The allies had agreed to spend 2 percent of gross national product on defense by 2024, but Mr. Trump has demanded that they meet that threshold right away.
“What they’re doing is spending at a much faster clip, they’re going up to the 2 percent level,” he said, adding that he had told his counterparts the day before that “we should be at 4 percent.”
“The additional money that they’re willing to put up has been really amazing,” Mr. Trump said, but he said nothing about a timetable or amounts. “Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening and they have substantially upped their commitment.”
Mr. Trump has not held a news conference on American soil for more than a year. But on Thursday, flanked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, his national security adviser, took questions from reporters for over a half an hour. He dismissed any concern that his relationship with Russia was too cozy or that his relationship with allies was too harsh, despite his statements questioning the value of NATO and castigating its members.
There was “great, very collegial spirit in that room,” he said.
Mr. Trump once again hailed himself as a “very stable genius” and took “total credit” for persuading his allies to increase military spending. And he took credit for other NATO countries having increased their military spending by $33 billion in the last year.
“I don‘t think that’s helping Russia,” he said. “I think NATO is much stronger now than it was two days ago.”
Mr. Trump threw the meeting into turmoil on Thursday by using a session on Ukraine and Georgia, countries partially occupied by Russia, as another chance to complain about NATO military spending. That prompted the leaders to convene an emergency budget session.
— Katie Rogers, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Steven Erlanger
A Russian gas pipeline to Germany is a big problem, Trump says
At his news conference and on Twitter, Mr. Trump returned repeatedly to the topic of the $10 billion Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline being built to take Russian natural gas to Germany.
He said on Wednesday that Germany was “captive” to Russia because of its dependence on Russian gas. While Germany pays billions of dollars a year for Russian energy, he said, the United States spends billions to protect Germany from Russia.
“We have to figure out what’s going on with the pipeline,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday. “I brought it up, nobody brought it up but me.”
In fact, concerns with the pipeline date back to the Obama administration.
“Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter before arriving for meetings, repeating gripes he aired on Wednesday. “They pay only a fraction of their cost. The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!”
“We have to figure out what’s going on with the pipeline,” Mr. Trump said. “I brought it up, nobody brought it up but me.” That is not true: Concerns with the pipeline date back to the Obama administration. — Katie Rogers and Julie Hirschfeld Davis