In the lead-up to the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels, President Donald Trump has reportedly sent "sharply worded letters" to the leaders of several NATO allies, escalating his long-simmering feud with the military alliance.
The New York Times reported Monday that the letters, sent last month to leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium, rebuked NATO allies for not spending enough on their own defence ― a criticism that Trump has repeatedly leveled against other alliance members.
The president also suggested in the letters that the U.S. would consider reducing its military commitment globally if its allies don't ramp up spending, reported the Times.
In his letter to Merkel, Trump reportedly wrote: "There is growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised. The United States continues to devote more resources to the defence of Europe when the Continent's economy, including Germany's, are doing well and security challenges abound. This is no longer sustainable for us."
"It will ... become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries do not share NATO's collective security burden while American soldiers continue to sacrifice their lives overseas or come home gravely wounded," the letter continued.
Trump's letters to the other NATO leaders reportedly echoed the language used in his note to Merkel. A diplomatic source who was briefed on the correspondence told CNN that Trump's letters were "very tough" in tone and had including warnings about the U.S. "losing patience" with NATO allies.
At least one recipient of the letters has bristled publicly at their contents. Michel, Belgium's prime minister, told reporters last week that he was "not very impressed by this type of letter."
"Belgium has halted the systematic fall in defence spending and takes part in a lot of military operations," Michel said, according to Deutsche Welle.
Trump's letters were sent ahead of next week's NATO summit in Brussels.
"It will be an interesting summit," the president reportedly said during last month's G7 meeting in Quebec of the upcoming meeting.
"NATO is as bad as NAFTA," Trump continued, referring to the trade agreement that he's called the "worst trade deal in the history of the world." "It's much too costly for the U.S."
"NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations," Trump said during a NATO meeting last month May. "[Twenty-three] of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they're supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States."
NATO members committed in 2014 to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on national defence. Contributions are voluntary, however, and the target is merely a guideline.
As the Times noted last year, NATO members are required to contribute to common civilian and military costs of the alliance. "None of the NATO allies are in arrears on these contributions," the Times said at the time.
A National Security Council spokesman told CNN this week that while Trump remains "committed" to NATO, the president has "also been clear we expect our allies to shoulder their fair share of our common defense burden and to do more in areas that most affect them."