President Trump reaffirmed support for NATO on Thursday, but only after stirring more discord with a vague threat that the United States could go its own way if the allies resisted his demands for additional military spending, making a dramatic exit after a summit punctuated by his escalating complaints.
Even as he declared that the American commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance “remains very strong” ahead of his summit meeting next week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, he continued to assail close partners and further strain diplomatic relations.
In the closing hours of the two-day gathering in Brussels with leaders of the other NATO nations, he forced a last minute emergency meeting to address his grievances over spending. Then he called a news conference to claim credit for having pressured NATO members to boost their defense budgets “like they never have before.”
That claim was quickly dismissed by the leaders of both Italy and France, who disputed that they had made any new pledges for boosting spending, adding to the sense of disarray.
Through it all, possible threats from Russia — and NATO’s plans to keep it in check — hung over the summit meeting, as fears in Europe have risen over Mr. Putin’s increasing assertiveness.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump dismissed concerns that his relationship with Russia was too cozy, or that his hardball tactics at NATO had played into the hands of Mr. Putin, whom he is to meet in Helsinki, Finland, next week. But after 48 hours of overt conflict with allies — and the second international summit in two months where he has sparred openly with European leaders — he said he looked forward to a positive encounter with the Russian president.
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