Trump claims credit for defence boost after reportedly threatening to quit North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Canadian special forces look over a Peshmerga observation post in northern Iraq on Feb. 20 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS  Ryan Remiorz

But just days out from a high-stakes meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the mercurial U.S. leader threatened to throw the transatlantic alliance into disarray.

Mr Trump refused to deny that he had threatened to pull the U.S. out of the organisation, but said the atmosphere in the meeting was cordial.

"Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening", Trump said at an impromptu press conference, adding, "Now we are very happy". (In recent years, we've fallen below that number.) It's a bit hard to see how the other 28 member nations might realistically be expected to approach that figure when so few are trending toward 2 percent, but perhaps Trump's intent is simply to nudge them in that direction.

At the contentious two-day summit that wrapped up Thursday, Trump intensified accusations that other nations in the 29-member alliance were not paying their fair share on defense.

After a week in which he had insulted allies and questioned the value of NATO, Trump-flanked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton-gave an impromptu news conference at NATO headquarters Thursday morning before leaving Brussels.

She said that Trump raised the topic of better burden-sharing and more spending by Germany, "as has been discussed for months", and that, "we made clear that we're on the way".

"I believe only one thing: the communique we have approved, the strategy we defend and the seriousness we have, because it is the security of our people we are talking about".

Trump had kicked off the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit at breakfast with the organization's leader on Wednesday by accusing Germany of being "totally controlled" and "captive to Russia" because of a pipeline deal that would bring gas directly between the two nations.

Reinhard Krause / Reuters U.S. President Donald Trump he holds a news conference after participating in the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium on July 12, 2018.

Any such increase would be almost impossible for smaller countries in Europe to achieve, and it is not clear that the capitals of Europe could muster the public or political support for such breathtaking increases in defense spending.

Everyone has agreed to substantially up their commitment.

Merkel said it was "completely impossible" to meet the commitments by January in the crisis session that Trump himself later publicly described as "tough for a while". Washington has since told countries they must halt all imports of Iranian oil from November 4 or face United States financial measures, with no exemptions.

By pointing out the close connections between Germany and Russian Federation on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and the degree to which they depend on each other financially, Trump was borrowing a page from his critics who suggest that because of Russia's interference in the 2016 election on his behalf, he is beholden to Putin.

Trump continued his now familiar verbal attacks, saying too many USA presidents had failed to get Europeans to spend more on defense and that he wanted immediate results. "I'm very consistent", he replied.

In response, the Twitter account of Russia's foreign ministry said they would be turning their attention to the World Cup instead of NATO's allegations.

"President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO", Macron said. Finally, he will head to Helsinki for a summit with Putin. "That would be my ultimate", Trump said.

Trump heads to Britain on Thursday, where the government is in crisis over Brexit and where tensions with Russian Federation have spiked after London blamed Moscow for the death this month of a British woman from contact with the Novichok nerve agent.

"I have to tell you that the atmosphere last night at dinner was very open, was very constructive and it was very positive", Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the president of Croatia, told reporters.

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