NATO leaders to urge Trump to offer support

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NATO leaders will press U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday to publicly support the NATO military alliance that he called “obsolete” during his campaign, facing a potentially cooler welcome than in the Middle East.
The Republican president, midway through his first foreign trip since taking office, enjoyed favorable receptions in Riyadh and Jerusalem, where leaders lauded his harsh words for Iran.
Praise looks to be in shorter supply at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation unless Trump pledges unwavering support.
“I am confident that under constructive leadership of President Trump, NATO will continue to play a key role in transatlantic security and defense,” Estonia’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas said as he arrived for the meeting.
Belgium’s premier Charles Michel said it was time to “defend the values of the free world” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said NATO was central to the West’s security.
“I am happy that all NATO member states will underline that NATO is the central pillar of our common security, that we feel united in solidarity for our common security,” Merkel said.
Trump ripped into allies during his campaign for not spending enough on defense and raised the possibility of only defending countries deemed to be paying their fair share of the European security umbrella underpinned by Washington.
“We expect him to recommit to NATO’s founding rule that an attack against one ally is an attack against all,” said a senior European diplomat at NATO.
“Words matter and there is a huge expectation on that.”
Trump is expected at NATO’s new, billion-dollar headquarters where he will unveil a memorial to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
There Trump, in his only scheduled public remarks before a dinner with NATO leaders, is expected to pledge his full support to the alliance he once said was not doing enough to stop terrorism.
NATO hopes to impress Trump with military bands, allied jets flying overhead and a walk through the glass-and-steel headquarters, which replaces a leaking, 1960s prefab structure.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump would press NATO leaders hard to spend more on defense and take on more of the burden of paying for the alliance, a message Trump has reiterated repeatedly before and after entering the White House.
Trump wants NATO to join the battle against Islamic State, Tillerson told reporters on Air Force One.
NATO ambassadors agreed on Wednesday for the Western military alliance to join the U.S.-led, 68-nation coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, paving the way for a formal endorsement by NATO leaders.

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