European lawmakers on Thursday criticized President Donald Trump's strong-arm approach to this week's NATO summit in Brussels, where the U.S. president reiterated demands that alliance members increase their military spending.
Speaking on a panel hosted by the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., members of the European Parliament warned that Trump's rhetorical cracks against allies such as Germany and France will provide fodder to adversaries that want to see the coalition in disarray.
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"It was not a new message from the U.S., but the way it was put by President Trump is new, very brutal, I think too much … it's irritating," said Arnaud Danjean, a French member of the European Parliament.
"The way you express things does matter, especially between allies. Humiliating allies has a cost, so you will gain something maybe in the short-term, but it really sews seeds of mistrust and I think we should pay attention to that."
Since assuming office, Trump has criticized NATO members for failing to meet domestic defense spending goals and relying too heavily on American military power for protection.
Alliance members in 2014 committed to spending 2 percent of their annual GDP on defense by 2024 following Russia's annexation of Crimea, but only a handful are on track to meet that target. Just three European members—the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Greece—hit the spending mark in 2017. By contrast, the United States spends 3.57 percent of its GDP on defense, amounting to more than 68 percent of the NATO total last year.
Trump suggested several times during the two-day summit the target should be doubled to 4 percent, writing on Twitter the United States "pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe."
"The content of the president's remarks are right, but maybe not the form on how this is being implemented," Antonio López-Istúriz White, a Spanish member of the European Parliament, said at the Hudson Institute.
"I would rather preferred [sic] that this had been done in a more diplomatic way… there are channels, there are ways of doing these things without alerting the whole media. I'm terrified now that politics is done by Twitter … I don't know if talking about security and defense through Twitter is the way. Time will tell us."
Still, White credited Trump for forcing European leaders to discuss the issue, which he said had been buried by socialist pacifists for 25 years.