WASHINGTON — He flew throughout the ocean to rejoice NATO’s 70th anniversary with the biggest and most necessary member of the navy alliance. So to outsiders it gave the impression to be an ungainly second on Tuesday for Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary normal, as he sat stiffly by whereas President Trump criticized German protection spending and predicted that the US would get together with Russia.
“I settle for there are variations, however on the subject of protection spending all of us agree,” Mr. Stoltenberg mentioned in an interview after his assembly with Mr. Trump, placing a constructive spin on the scenario.
He mentioned the president had helped push member states to funds a further $100 billion in protection spending and credited Mr. Trump with “having an actual affect.”
“I say that as a result of it’s a truth,” Mr. Stoltenberg mentioned. “Allies at the moment are actually stepping up.”
However not all. Germany will more than likely sluggish the expansion of its protection spending — that means that Europe’s financial powerhouse will defy a spending goal set by the North Atlantic Treaty Group. And different member states are struggling to succeed in the present purpose of spending 2 p.c of their financial output on the navy by the top of 2024.
The scene on Tuesday was simply the newest instance of Mr. Stoltenberg’s unenviable efforts to bridge seemingly irreconcilable positions between Europe and the US.
He’s the European chief who has proven essentially the most deft hand with Mr. Trump. A skilled statistician, Mr. Stoltenberg got here to the White Home with charts displaying how protection spending has risen.
However his credit score of Mr. Trump for the spending will increase has aggravated European leaders.
“He’s somewhat too diplomatic,” mentioned Jim Townsend, a former Pentagon official who oversaw relations with NATO and is now a fellow on the Middle for a New American Safety. “Generally he has a tough time whacking an ally over the pinnacle.”
Mr. Stoltenberg has sought to stability Mr. Trump towards German politicians, who’ve made clear they’re sick of the president’s calls for. The problem will solely develop all through this week as Mr. Stoltenberg seems earlier than members of Congress to reward each their help of the navy alliance and Mr. Trump’s drive for a extra equitable share of navy burdens.
Germany this yr is placing 1.35 p.c of its gross home product towards protection spending, and in 2020 will spend 1.37 p.c. New funds projections by Berlin present Germany will spend 1.25 p.c of its financial output by 2023.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and the protection minister, Ursula von der Leyen, have mentioned they continue to be dedicated to the two p.c purpose. “Germany will hold its promise,” Ms. von der Leyen mentioned Tuesday on German public radio.
Hours later, fueling the stress, Mr. Trump mentioned member states ought to spend doubtlessly much more than 2 p.c on protection.
Within the Oval Workplace, Mr. Stoltenberg sat stone-faced as Mr. Trump criticized Germany for “not paying their justifiable share.” The president additionally predicted: “I believe we’ll get together with Russia.”
Since 2014, NATO has deployed navy forces to Jap Europe to discourage Russian aggression. It has additionally intensified efforts to rebuild European militaries which have eroded because the finish of the Chilly Battle.
However the alliance faces an array of challenges it has not beforehand confronted, and doesn’t but know the right way to sort out — together with Russian interference in elections and home politics, and China’s financial investments in telecommunications networks.
Within the interview with The New York Instances, Mr. Stoltenberg advised the alliance’s coverage on Russia was per Mr. Trump’s need for higher relations. He pointed to the cooperation by his own residence nation, Norway, with Russia on fisheries and different issues.
“We now have a robust, frequent understanding of the right way to strategy Russia,” Mr. Stoltenberg mentioned. “These allies who had been skeptical of dialogue with Russia have seen that we’ve delivered on deterrence and protection.”
The gatherings to commemorate NATO’s anniversary had been initially deliberate as per week of occasions in Washington for heads of state and authorities. However Mr. Trump’s indignant speeches, public and personal, at different alliance gatherings over the past two years persuaded allies to downgrade the anniversary celebration to a gathering of international ministers.
The purpose, in line with present and former American and European officers, was to restrict Mr. Trump’s participation.
Even Tuesday’s assembly with Mr. Trump was not initially on Mr. Stoltenberg’s agenda. However then Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced that she had invited the NATO chief to handle Congress, a speech that’s scheduled for Wednesday.
European officers mentioned Mr. Stoltenberg had not but accepted the invitation when Ms. Pelosi introduced it. That put him within the place of probably leaving Washington with out seeing the president however addressing the Democrat-led Home, which has accredited a measure that seeks to dam Mr. Trump from withdrawing from the navy alliance.
Final week, NATO made the weird transfer of extending Mr. Stoltenberg’s time period a second time, by two extra years, that means he would go away workplace in 2022. It’s an acknowledgment of Mr. Stoltenberg’s deft contact not simply with Mr. Trump, but additionally with different troublesome alliance leaders, together with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary.
Mr. Trump endorsed the extension on Tuesday. “I had little question in my thoughts who I needed,” he mentioned.
European officers mentioned their worries about Mr. Stoltenberg’s cozy relationship with Mr. Trump had been pushed apart, largely to keep away from giving the president an outsize position in deciding on a brand new NATO chief. Mr. Stoltenberg was scheduled to step down in 2020, on the peak of an intense election in the US.
Within the interview with The Instances, Mr. Stoltenberg mentioned he had consulted with Ms. Merkel, and famous that the brand new funds unveiled by Germany was not ultimate. Germany has submitted a spending plan to NATO that reveals protection spending rising by 80 p.c between 2014 and 2024, he mentioned, including that he anticipated Berlin to stay as much as that plan.
“The Germans have informed me it can additional improve,” he mentioned.
Friction is rising in Germany. The Social Democrats, Ms. Merkel’s center-left coalition companions who management the finance ministry and had been answerable for the newest funds plan, are utilizing the detest of Mr. Trump of their election marketing campaign forward of European parliamentary elections in Could.
Julianne Smith, a fellow on the Bosch Academy in Berlin and a former Obama administration nationwide safety official, mentioned the Social Democrats had been utilizing the navy funds to indicate they had been the get together “that stands as much as Donald Trump.”
“This choice grew to become a little bit of a referendum on Donald Trump, as a substitute of a referendum on Germany’s hollowed-out forces that desperately want these sources,” she mentioned.