(ABC NEWS)- President Donald Trump declared NATO a “fine-tuned machine” in an impromptu news conference at the conclusion of his participation in a contentious NATO summit during which he has questioned the utility of the alliance and harshly criticized some of the United States’ closest allies for not paying more into the alliance.
The alliance is much stronger than it was at the outset of the conference, Trump said Thursday, taking credit for what he said are increased commitments from allies to up spending, citing an increased commitment of $33 billion to the alliance.
“Yesterday, I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening and they have substantially upped their commitment and now we’re very happy, and have a very, very powerful, very strong NATO; much stronger than it was two days ago,” Trump said.
The president told reporters he “probably” had the unilateral power to pull the United States out of NATO if he chose to do so but said he thinks it’s unnecessary.
Trump next heads to the United Kingdom for a working visit and then to Finland for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump said he intends to talk to Putin about its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
“We will be asking, of course, your favorite question about meddling. We’re going to ask that again,” Trump said. “He may deny it. All I can do is say it.”
The president again described Putin as a competitor, declining to characterize the longtime U.S. adversary as an enemy even as he said he hopes one day they might even be friends.
“He’s representing Russia, I’m representing the United States,” Trump said. “So in a sense, we are competitors, not a question of friend or enemy. He’s not my enemy and, hopefully someday, maybe he’ll be a friend. It could happen.”
Trump said other leaders at the summit have thanked him for meeting with Putin, even as he sought to keep expectations low for what comes out of the meeting.
“We will see what happens — just a loose meeting. It’s not going to be a big schedule,” he said.
“I don’t think it should take a very long period of time and we will see where it leads but could lead to productive, something productive. And maybe it’s not but I think meeting with people is great.”