President Donald Trump offered a defense of his “America First” policies Monday during a North Carolina rally in which he contrasted his efforts to make Europe pay its fair share of defense costs with the administration of former President Barack Obama.
“You finally have a president who understands that I’m not supposed to be president of the world; I’m supposed to be President of the United States of America to bring back our jobs from other countries,” Trump told the crowd.
“I read where Obama is more popular in Germany than Trump. He’s got to be. I’m making people pay their bills. He’s got to be. The day I’m more popular than him, I’m not doing my job,” he said.
Trump told his North Carolina supporters that until his election, America was on the losing end of deal after deal.
“For decades, our leaders put global interests and special interests ahead of your interests,” he said. “You know that better than anybody and this state knows it better than anybody. They traded away your factories and sold your future.”
Trump said Obama stumbled into “one foreign debacle after another.”
As a result, other nations acted unfairly toward America.
“They’ve taken advantage of us for years, and I have to say sadly in many cases it’s our allies that took the greatest advantage of this country.”
The president honed in on the demands he made upon taking office that other NATO countries increase their military spending to better bear the costs of their own defense.
“I also got other NATO members to pay an additional $100 billion over the last year and a half that they weren’t paying,” Trump said.
“They were delinquent. We’re supposed to protect them and they don’t pay. I say you can’t do that. You can’t do that,” he said, adding that NATO members shirked full payment for “decades.”
“Now we’re finally making immensely wealthy countries pay the cost of their defense; we’re negotiating with a lot of them. Think of it we have these immensely wealthy countries and they’re paying for a fraction of our costs to defend them.”
Trump faulted his predecessors for not demanding Europe pay a fair share for its own defense.
“I won’t mention names because I don’t want to embarrass anybody. Forget it some of the wealthiest countries in the world and when I say king, president, prime minister, queen, no matter what I say you know they say? ‘But nobody’s ever asked us to do that before.’ That’s the only excuse,” Trump said.
Trump said that giving wealthy European nations protection should not have come at a cost to the U.S., and offered a hypothetical conversation with a foreign leader to illustrate his position.
“Why are we defending you? You’re immensely wealthy. You compete with us on trade. We have lousy trade deals that we’re renegotiating — many of them and, ultimately all of them. Why are we protecting you, Mr. President? ‘Well, I don’t know. I don’t know.’ But you know what their answer is? ‘Because you’ve always done it.’ That’s not a great answer, so we’re taking in billions and billions, but I got $100 billion and the secretary general of NATO [Jens] Stoltenberg is my biggest fan,” Trump said.
“We were defending many countries that treat us very badly on trade and very unfairly. We were defending them and now it’s changing around; $100 billion. They’re not happy.”