After Calling NATO Obsolete, Trump Agrees With Merkel on Its 'Importance'

Trump and German chancellor recognize need for all allies to contribute their 'fair share.'

U.S. army soldiers attend an official welcoming ceremony for U.S. troops deployed to Poland as part of NATO build-up in Eastern Europe in Zagan, Poland, January 14, 2017.
Krzysztof Zatycki/AP

WASHINGTON D.C. - U.S. President Donald Trump agreed on the "fundamental importance" of NATO in a phone call with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday, after calling the alliance "obsolete" in an interview with a German newspaper earlier this month. 

In their phone call, the first since Trump's inauguration, the two leaders recognized that the alliance must be capable of facing new threats, according to a White House statement, and that all members must contribute their "fair share." 

Trump and Merkel also agreed on the need "strengthen already robust cooperation in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, and to work to stabilize conflict areas in the Middle East and North Africa."

Trump has voiced strong criticism of NATO during his campaign, raising questions about the money the United States pours into the alliance and saying that the U.S. would not automatically defend NATO allies if they were attacked. The president hasn't softened his stance since taking office, causing alarm in Europe after telling the Bild newspaper in an interview that he believed NATO was "obsolete."

Trump had severely criticized Merkel during his election campaign, claiming she was "ruining" Germany by allowing hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers into the country.

In turn, Merkel had raised eyebrows after Trump's victory by insisting that the basis for cooperation between Berlin and Washington should be "democracy, freedom and human rights worldwide, and to strive for an open and liberal world order."

It was the second time Trump and Merkel have spoken by phone. They first spoke when the German chancellor called Trump shortly after the election to congratulate him on his victory.

Reuters contributed to this story