BRUSSELS — After leading allies to believe that the U.S. might abandon its commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, President Trump reversed course at an impromptu press conference. But he reiterated his demand that U.S. allies spend more on defense.

“Prior to last year, where I attended my last meeting it was going down, the amount of money being spent by countries was going down and down very substantially,” he said.

Allied NATO defense spending has actually increased on average 3.1 percent since 2014. NATO nations have accelerated future spending pledges under Mr. Trump’s persistent pressure, with a goal of reaching 2 percent of GDP by 2024. Five of 29 NATO nations currently hit that mark.

“We will go to much higher than 2 percent into the future,” the president said.

Though French President Emmanuel Macron said there was no deal to raise spending above that threshold, now or in the future.  

The president was also asked if NATO allies expressed concern about his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“They actually thanked me for meeting with President Putin,” he said.

The president also described Putin as his “competitor.”

“He’s been very nice to me the times I’ve met him. I’ve been nice to him. He’s a competitor. Somebody was saying, is he an enemy? He’s not my enemy,” he said.

The president said he would raise the issue of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

“He may deny it. It’s one of those things. All I can say is, did you? And don’t do it again. But he may deny.”

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