U.S. President Donald Trump has said that Turkey is a very good member of NATO “or will be.”
“I like Turkey and I get along well with the president – he is a very good member of NATO or will be,” Trump said in a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the alliance’s summit in London on Dec. 3, praising his relations with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
When asked if Turkey should be a member after its Syria offensive, Trump said that it should be discussed among allies.
Ankara launched an incursion in northern Syria following U.S. troop withdrawal from the area on Oct. 9.
The offensive, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” aimed to clear the border from militants of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – the group at the center of a recent rift between Turkey and its NATO allies.
While Turkey perceives the YPG as a terrorist group because of its links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and insists that NATO should designate the group as such, the alliance is far from doing so – mainly due to the group being the main U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS.
Saying that Turkey wanted to buy arms from the U.S., but was prevented by former President Barack Obama, Trump noted that Ankara turned to Russia for the purchases as a result.
Trump also praised Turkey’s efforts in the U.S. operation that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Commenting on French President Emmanuel Macron’s much-debated remarks on the alliance being “brain dead,” Trump said that the comments are “insulting” and “very disrespectful.”
“Nobody needs NATO more than France,” Trump said, adding that France, where Macron is seeking to push through delicate reforms of its large state sector, was “not doing well economically.”
“It’s a very tough statement to make, when you have a tough situation in France,” he added.
Talking on the tariff crisis between the U.S. and France, Trump said: “I don’t want France taxing the American companies, if anyone taxes the American companies it’s the U.S., not France.”
Trump repeatedly branded the alliance “obsolete” and complained about the amount members spend on defense – especially Germany.
Underlining the breadth of strife in a transatlantic bloc hailed by its backers as the most successful military alliance in history, Trump demanded that Europe pay more for defense and also make concessions to U.S. interests on trade.
Explicitly linking his complaint that Europe does not pay enough for NATO’s security missions to his staunch “America First” defense of U.S. commercial interests, Trump said it was time for Europe to “shape up” on both fronts.
“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,” he said of transatlantic disputes over everything from the aerospace sector to a European “digital tax” on U.S. technology giants.
Dismissing recent signals from Germany that it was ready to do more to match a NATO target of spending two percent of national output on defense, Trump accused it and other nations which spend less than that of being “delinquent.”