Putin is a competitor, not an enemy, says Trump

Merkel slams Trump’s ‘Russian captive’ comment defends Berlin’s ‘independent policies

Trump claimed member nations had agreed to significantly boost their defence budgets and reaffirmed - after days of griping that the USA was being taken advantage of by its allies - that the US remains faithful to the accord.

The summit is shaping up to be the most divisive since the alliance was forced 69 years ago and Mr Trump was combative from the off.

But Mr Trump hinted he would not be happy with 2 per cent, saying 4 per cent would be a better level.

Questioned repeatedly about Trump's unpredictable demands, Macron injected a note of gravity, underlining that NATO's work is important, that it involves the lives of men and women - U.S. Corporal Joseph Maciel from California was killed in an insider attack in southern Afghanistan last weekend - and must not be taken lightly.

"Everyone in the room thanked me", he said.

The EU Council leader said pointedly that when Mr Trump did meet Mr Putin on 16 July "it is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem".

Asked about Trump's suggestion, Stoltenberg said he'll focus on what's been agreed to.

With allies fearing he could strike some sort of deal with Nato's key adversary, Trump said that he saw Putin as a "competitor" but not an "enemy".

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Another NATO diplomat said Trump trampled on protocol by pointing at some leaders he said were not spending enough and addressing Merkel by her first name, referring to her as "you, Angela". "We want to find out about Syria", Trump said.

And he said Canada has promised to reverse a decline in military resources with an eye towards the two per cent target.

Trump threw the summit into turmoil by demanding not only that allies reach their commitment to increase spending to two percent of GDP "immediately" - instead of by 2024 as previously agreed - but also telling them to eventually double the figure to a punishing four percent.

The mercurial tycoon said before leaving Washington that his meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday "may be the easiest" part of his European tour, which also includes a trip to Britain, where the government is in crisis over Brexit.

"So we have a commitment to spend two percent". However, the U.S. is not one of them - its spending as a proportion of GDP may be the highest of all the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members, but it has actually fallen from 3.56% in Obama's final year to an estimated 3.5% under Trump.

As well as Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Charles Michel, the prime minister of Belgium, were also singled out by Trump for undershooting on their spending targets while USA taxpayers - funding a defense budget worth about 3.6 percent of their national income - foot much of NATO's bills.

"We are supposed to be guarding against Russian Federation, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions dollars a year to Russian Federation".

"A very nice note from Chairman Kim of North Korea", Trump tweeted alongside a copy of the letter dated July 6 - the day that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Pyongyang for what turned out to be hard talks with Kim's regime. "It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024". White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said this is not a formal proposal and that Trump had merely "suggested" this increase.

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