BRUSSELS — In a chaotic 28 hours at NATO, President Donald Trump disparaged longtime allies, cast doubt on his commitment to the mutual-defense organization and sent the 29-member pact into frenzied emergency session. Then, in a head-snapping pivot at the end, on Thursday he declared the alliance a "fine-tuned machine" that had caved to his demands to speed up increases in military spending.
Trump claimed member nations had agreed to significantly boost their defense budgets and reaffirmed — after days of griping that the U.S. was being taken advantage of by its allies — that the U.S. remains faithful to the accord. "The United States' commitment to NATO remains very strong," Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference following an emergency session of NATO members held to address his threats.
There were no immediate specifics on what Trump said he had achieved, and French President Emmanuel Macron quickly disputed Trump's claim that NATO allies had agreed to boost defense spending beyond their existing goal of 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2024.
"There is a communique that was published yesterday. It's very detailed," Macron said. "It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That's all."
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the leaders had agreed "that we need to deliver on our commitments. There's new sense of urgency, and all allies agreed to redouble their efforts."
"This is about making sure that we deliver on our commitments and that we continue to add more billions to our defense budgets," he said.
And German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed Germany was already working to increase its spending before Trump's push.
"I made clear that we know that we have to do more and that we have been doing so for quite a while," she said. "That turning point has long been initiated."
Trump had spent his time in Brussels berating members of the military alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defense, accusing Europe of freeloading off the U.S. and raising doubts about whether he would come to members' defense if they were attacked.
Trump said he made his anger clear to allies on Wednesday.
"Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening," Trump said, adding that, in response, European countries agreed to boost their spending.
"They have substantially upped their commitment and now we're very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO," he said.
Painting a rosy portrait before he left Brussels, Trump added: "I can you tell you that NATO now is a really a fine-tuned machine. People are paying money that they never paid before. They're happy to do it. And the United States is being treated much more fairly.
With that, Trump moved on to the United Kingdom, where significant protests against him were expected. Although Trump administration officials point to the longstanding alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom, Trump's itinerary in England will largely keep him out of central London, the center of the protests.
Instead, a series of events — a black-tie dinner with business leaders, a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May and an audience with Queen Elizabeth II — will happen outside the bustling city, where Mayor Sadiq Khan has been in a verbal battle with Trump.
Trump brushed off the protests, saying, "I think they like me a lot in the U.K. I think they agree with me on immigration. I'm very strong on immigration."