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Trump sets off for Nato summit in combative mood on military spending

The President said that European states’ failure to hit the Nato target to spend 2% of national income on defence was ‘not fair to the US taxpayer’.

Donald Trump set off for Europe in combative mood ahead of the Nato summit in Brussels and his first visit to Britain as US President.

In a tweet posted before his departure, Mr Trump put European allies on notice that he will be taking a tough stance on their contributions to the military alliance, as well as barriers to US trade.

But European Council President Donald Tusk hit back with his own message on the social media site, insisting that the US has no better ally than the EU.

In  a pointed apparent reference to Mr Trump’s upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Tusk noted that European military spending “is an investment in our security, which cannot be said with confidence about Russian and Chinese spending”.

Mr Trump  has repeatedly complained that the US is left to provide the lion’s share of funding for trans-Atlantic defence, as European states fail to meet Nato’s target of spending 2% of GDP on the military.

This week’s two-day summit, beginning on Wednesday at Nato’s new HQ in the Belgian capital, is expected to be dominated by US demands for increased spending by other members of the 29-nation alliance.

Mr Trump said: “The US is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer.

“On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!”

And he added: “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”

Minutes later, Mr Tusk tweeted: “Dear Donald Trump. US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU.

“We spend on defense much more than Russia and as much as China. I hope you have no doubt this is an investment in our security, which cannot be said with confidence about Russian & Chinese spending.”

Britain is one of just five Nato nations to meet the 2% target, but Theresa May is expected to face pressure to increase budgets when she joins other leaders in Brussels.

The meeting comes ahead of Mr Trump’s four-day working visit to the UK, during which he will hold talks with Mrs May at Chequers, meet the Queen in Windsor Castle and spend two days in Scotland preparing for Monday’s face-to-face summit with Mr Putin in Finland.

Responding to Mr Trump’s comments, Mrs May’s official spokesman said: “This is something that the President has said on other occasions.

“The UK has itself on a number of occasions urged everybody to work towards meeting that 2% target, which we of course do meet and exceed.”

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