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As the United Kingdom grapples with its own future in the European Union, I hope that President Trump's visit will help to solidify the long friendship between our two great countries.

Trump had said before leaving Washington that his meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin next Monday, July 16, "may be the easiest" part of his upcoming European tour, which also includes a trip to Britain, where the government is in crisis over Brexit.

Trump tweeted that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries "Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025" and then rattled them further by privately suggesting member nations should spend 4 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence - a bigger share than even the United States now pays, according to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation statistics.

Though NATO allies have squabbled in the past, Trump seemed to be leaving in his wake not just bruised feelings, but deeper concerns about the future of the Western alliance that has served as a bedrock of the worldwide order.

Trump also singled out Germany and its chancellor Angela Merkel for criticism, a day after saying Berlin had become a "captive of Russia" because of a gas pipeline deal and should be paying more for defense.

Trump on Wednesday urged members of the alliance to meet their commitment of at least 2 percent of their gross domestic products by 2024, and eventually 4 percent.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona wants Trump to tell Putin his invasion and occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine is "illegal" and his activities in Syria are "detrimental".

Funding has averaged about $1 billion annually and Stoltenberg has said he expected that level to be met.

When asked if he was anxious that the Putin-Trump meeting could have negative consequences for Poland, Duda said he expected Trump to continue the US stance of supporting Poland.

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. "He may deny it", Trump said of Putin.

"The problem is Trump seems to really see no benefit that allies provide the United States", says James Goldgeier, visiting senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2017, the U.S.is estimated to have spent more than 69% of the cumulative total.

He added: "It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024". He said it was "a little tough for a little while" and that he had told the Europeans he would be "very unhappy" if they did not up their spending "substantially".

TRUMP: "Germany is a captive of Russian Federation because they supply (energy)".

Trump took an aggressive approach with the group - in person and on Twitter - leading some to knock down reports that Trump threatened to leave the alliance. "And I know that's valued very highly over here and people can disagree strongly and still go out to dinner".

Earlier in the day, after Trump blasted Germany for buying Russian oil and natural gas, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg sought to convey an attitude of slow, steady progress for the alliance.


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