WASHINGTON — It’s been a muted week for the “real” Donald Trump, the Twitter account where the president normally says a lot of things that are unreal. That respite may have come to a close, though, as he wrapped up his foreign trip with yet another mistold tale about NATO.
In a tweet and a speech before leaving for home Saturday, he said that thanks to him, money is “starting to pour into NATO,” which it isn’t.
Besides going light on provocative tweets, Trump held no news conferences and gave no extended interviews abroad. Those venues are frequent sources of Trump’s off-the-cuff misstatements. Even a more scripted Trump, though, does not always tell it straight, and the release of his proposed budget stirred a fresh round of questionable rhetoric from his stateside aides.
TRUMP: “I will tell you, a big difference over the last year, money is actually starting to pour into NATO from countries that would not have been doing what they’re doing now had I not been elected, I can tell you that. Money is starting to pour in.” — speech to U.S. troops in Sicily on Saturday
TRUMP tweet: “Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in.”
THE FACTS: First, no money is pouring in and countries do not pay the U.S. Nor do they pay NATO directly, apart from administrative expenses, which are not the issue.
The issue is how much each NATO member country spends on its own defense.
Although the president is right that many NATO countries have agreed to spend more on their military budgets, that is not a result of the NATO summit this past week at which Trump pressed them to do so. The countries agreed in 2014 to stop cutting their military spending and to start increasing it “toward” 2 percent of their gross domestic product by 2024.
That goal was set during the Obama administration and is less than an ironclad commitment.
TRUMP: “But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years, and not paying in those past years.” — remarks to NATO on Thursday
THE FACTS: Members of the alliance are not in arrears in their military spending. They are not in debt to the United States, or failing to meet a current standard, and Washington is not trying to collect anything, despite the president’s contention that they “owe massive amounts of money.” They merely committed in 2014 to work toward the goal of 2 percent of GDP by 2024.