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Trump to meet NATO leaders in Europe in May

Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to join a meeting of NATO leaders in Europe in May this year, after speaking with the alliance's secretary-general on Sunday.

During his presidential campaign, Trump was a fierce critic of the organization, claiming that other, European, countries were not contributing enough. In a phone call Sunday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump appears to have softened his earlier stance over the organization's future.

A follow-up White House statement said the two men "discussed how to encourage all NATO allies to meet their defense spending commitments."

"President Trump agreed to join in a meeting of NATO leaders in Europe in May," the statement said.

The White House statement also said the president and Stoltenberg "discussed the potential for a peaceful resolution of the conflict" in eastern Ukraine.

A peace deal between Russia and Ukraine was agreed in February 2015 but both sides have blamed each other in a recent upsurge in violence. U.K. prime minister Theresa May has also claimed to get further commitment from Trump on NATO when she met with the president last month.

President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump walk toward Marine One while departing from the White House, on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump is making an unannounced trip to Dover Air Force bace in Delaware to pay his respects to Chief Special Warfare Operator William 'Ryan' Owens, who was killed during a raid in Yemen.
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President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump walk toward Marine One while departing from the White House, on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump is making an unannounced trip to Dover Air Force bace in Delaware to pay his respects to Chief Special Warfare Operator William 'Ryan' Owens, who was killed during a raid in Yemen.

Trump criticism

During his campaign, Trump said he'd look at whether NATO allies have "fulfilled their obligations to us" before deciding whether to defend them if they are attacked.

This would contravene Article 5 of the NATO treaty which states that if one member of the treat suffers an "armed attack" there will be a "collective self-defense". Moreover, Trump also called NATO obsolete, saying it must do more to fight terrorism.

Following Trump's election, European NATO members have upped spending to the point that the group's military spending this year is expected to bounce back for the first time since 2010, according to an IHS Jane's Defence Budgets report.

The uptick in Nato's budget is also viewed in the IHS report as a response to "growing strategic challenges posed by the Islamic State and Russia."