US President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron clashed about the future of NATO on Tuesday before a summit intended to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Western military alliance, reports Reuters.
In sharp exchanges underlining discord in a transatlantic bloc hailed by backers as the most successful military pact in history, Trump demanded that Europe pay more for its collective defence and make concessions to US interests on trade.
President Macron stood by comments he made last month describing NATO as suffering from a lack of strategic purpose akin to "brain death", and criticised fellow NATO member Turkey, which he accused of working with Daesh proxies.
Washington and Paris have long argued over NATO's purpose – France opposed the 2003 Iraq war – but the new tensions will add to doubts over the alliance's future that have grown with Trump's ambivalence over US commitments to defend Europe.
Trump said Macron's criticism of NATO was "very, very nasty" and questioned whether the US military should defend any countries that were "delinquent" on alliance targets for national military spending.
It's not right to be taken advantage of on NATO and also then to be taken advantage of on trade, and that's what happens. We can't let that happen,
Trump said of transatlantic disputes on issues ranging from the aerospace sector to a European digital services tax on US technology giants.
All 29 member states have a target of spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defence and Trump has singled out Germany for falling short of the target.
But Macron, speaking later at a news conference with Trump, stood by his criticisms of NATO and said its real problem was a failure to forge a clear purpose since the end of the Cold War.
"We have to be clear on what the fundamentals of NATO will be, which is not the case now," he said.
Adding that NATO has not even agreed on a definition of terrorism, he said: "When I look at Turkey, they are fighting against those who fought with us shoulder to shoulder against Daesh and sometimes they work with Daesh proxies."