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Trump commits to NATO's Article 5 obligation, after having left mutual defense commitment in doubt

 (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

President Trump on Friday made an explicit commitment to NATO's core mutual defense obligation, weeks after he declined to do so at a meeting of alliance members in Brussels.

"I am committing the United States to Article 5," Trump said in response to a question during a Rose Garden news conference with the president of Romania. "Certainly we are there to protect."

That he previously omitted any reference to the NATO charter obligation in remarks at the organization's new headquarters last month deepened concerns among the other leaders of member nations concerning the future of the trans-Atlantic alliance in the Trump administration.

The White House has downplayed the omission, and even called the dust-up "silly." 

"The president's presence at an Article 5 commemoration and his discussion about NATO invoking Article 5 for the first time ever after 9/11 pretty much speaks for itself," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said this week. 

Politico, though, reported that administration officials debated the precise language Trump should use in reaffirming the U.S. commitment to the alliance, only to have Trump strike the final language before delivering a stern lecture to allies about insufficient defense spending. 

At the news conference Friday, Trump praised President Klaus Iohannis and Romania for raising that nation's defense spending to meet the alliance's goal of 2% of national GDP — a threshold that predates Trump's time in office, but one he has championed even if at times he has appeared to misunderstand how that money is spent.

"The money is starting to pour in," Trump said, suggesting that the new defense spending by Romania was being paid into the alliance, rather than being spent internally. "Other countries are starting to realize that it's time to pay up and they're doing that. Very proud of that fact."

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