President Donald Trump defiantly defended on Tuesday his meeting with Vladimir Putin, saying his encounter with the Russian leader went "even better" than his summit with NATO leaders last week.
Trump's tweet comes amid an uproar over his decision to not endorse the US intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election over Putin's denial, and his scolding of US allies last week for what he said was inadequate financial contributions to NATO.
"While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way - the Fake News is going Crazy!"
The tweet came shortly after Trump claimed that increased NATO spending was "only because of me."
"NATO was weak, but now it is strong again (bad for Russia). The media only says I was rude to leaders, never mentions the money!" Trump tweeted.
While NATO members pledged in 2014 to raise their defense spending to two percent of GDP by 2024, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said Trump deserves credit for giving a new sense of urgency to the increases, saying that NATO's European members and Canada have added an additional $41 billion in defense spending since Trump took office.
However, while Stoltenberg gives Trump part of the credit, many NATO members began increasing their defense spending prior to his taking office as the security concerns including Russia's military incursions into Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea as well as the rise of ISIS are also seen as contributing to the defense boost.
Trump's tweets on Tuesday come after he has faced withering criticism at home and abroad for his international trip in which he met NATO leaders, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Putin at a summit in Helsinki, Finland.
In Belgium, Trump levied harsh accusations against member states of the longtime US alliance, at one point accusing Germany of being held "captive" by Russia. He further inflamed US relations among NATO allies by meeting with Putin, who has been isolated by much of the West following his annexation of Crimea in 2014, and created a firestorm back in the US when he said he didn't "see any reason why" Russia would attack US elections.
Instead, Trump touted Putin's vigorous denial and pivoted to complaining about the Democratic National Committee's server and missing emails from Hillary Clinton's personal account.
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