“President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO,” Macron said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in his own press conference soon after, said the talks between Trump and the leaders of other NATO members had been a “frank and open discussion” that “made NATO stronger.”
“It has created a new sense of urgency,” he said, adding that “a clear message from President Trump is having an impact.”
While Trump was short on detail, he was long on unity — the theme U.S. officials and European leaders had hoped would emerge in advance of Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week — though his narrative of solidarity was immediately challenged by Macron and others.
“It all came together at the end,” Trump said.
Still, Trump’s tone and his demands were much different Thursday than they had been Wednesday, when he asked NATO countries to raise their defense-spending threshold to 4 percent of GDP and slammed Germany as a “captive” of Russia because it buys oil and gas from Moscow.
Whether he made an explicit threat or not, the president has often wondered aloud about the utility of NATO and its value to the U.S. Trump told fellow NATO leaders at an emergency session that the U.S. would “do our own thing” if they don’t step up their defense spending more.
Asked Thursday whether he was threatening to pull out of NATO for any reason — and whether he could do that without Congress — Trump chose to lower the temperature.
“I think I probably can,” Trump said, “but that’s unnecessary.”