The President's News Conference With President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia, President Raimonds Vejonis of Latvia, and President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania
President Trump. Thank you. Today I'm honored to host the President of Estonia, the President of Latvia, and the President of Lithuania at the U.S.-Baltic Centennial Summit. Thank you all for traveling to the White House for these really important discussions. We've just spent a long time together, and it was very interesting.
This summit proudly displays to the world America's deep and lasting friendship with the Baltic nations. On behalf of the American people, thank you very much. And we are going to have another 100-year—a very long and beautiful relationship. This is your 100th year of independence. Congratulations.
For a century, the United States has stood with the people of the Baltics in support of their independence, sovereignty, and self-determination. Through the decades of brutal Soviet occupation, the United States never ceased to recognize the sovereignty of the Baltic republics. In our discussions today, I was proud to reaffirm America's commitment to the Welles Declaration of 1940 and the U.S.-Baltic Charter of 1998. These same principles lie at the heart of America's approach to world affairs, honoring the right of peaceful citizens and nations to protect their interests and chart their own wonderful destinies.
All three Baltic republics are committed NATO Allies. I want to express our gratitude to each of your countries for fulfilling your full obligations and meeting the 2-percent GDP benchmark for national defense this year. Your commitment to burden-sharing is an example, really, that other NATO nations and partners all around the world will have to all get together and bear. Some of them do not make the same commitment. Hopefully, they soon will. When nations are committed to peace and to security, they have to pay their share. And we will all enjoy a much more safe and prosperous future.
Baltic countries are also providing security assistance and training as part of the coalition to defeat ISIS. The coalition has liberated almost 100 percent of the territory once held by ISIS in Syria and in Iraq, and we will not rest until ISIS is gone.
In economic matters, our cooperation continues to develop and grow, as you well know. We're excited about several new opportunities for collaboration, especially in science, medicine, and technology. Immediately following this summit, the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host a U.S.-Baltic Business Summit to expand mutual trade and investment between our nations. And they're all looking forward to seeing you.
The Baltic countries remain a key market for U.S. aircraft, automobiles, machinery, and medical equipment. And we welcome increased bilateral trade with all three nations based on the principle of fairness and reciprocity.
Finally, we are enhancing our cooperation on energy security. We're all collaborating to diversify energy sources, supplies, and routes throughout the Baltic region, including expanding exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas, of which you've become a bigger and bigger user. These are just some of the many wonderful opportunities we can seize together. To all three Baltic leaders with us today, thank you again for helping to celebrate. And this is really a very great celebration because it's a historic milestone. Our friendship will continue to grow closer, and our cooperation will continue to bring about the greater security and prosperity for our citizens. And you have done terrific jobs as leaders, as Presidents of your countries. And we tell you that, for your citizens, we are there for you.
As we begin the next 100 years of our partnership, the Baltic republics can trust the United States will remain a strong, proud, and loyal friend and ally.
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Please.
President Grybauskaite. Probably, it's my turn?
President Trump. Yes. Whatever you like.
President Grybauskaite. It looks so.
President Trump. Ladies first.
President Grybauskaite. [Laughter] So, of course, we're very thankful for the possibility to be here, especially, and not only, because of our anniversary in our region, but because of alliance which we are reaffirming today with United States by adopting the declaration, where we say that article 5 is ironclad for all of us and the collective defense issues are important to all of us.
And we understand how important NATO is for all of us and why we, during our discussions, talked so much about the reforming—further reforming—NATO, the investments into our defense, the amounts necessary to invest into our defense, and of course, together, where it is necessary, all of us. And Lithuania is with the United States on fighting the terrorists through all the world. We're back in Afghanistan. We're in Mali. We're in Central African Republic. We're in Kosovo. We're in Ukraine together. So we are partners, allies, and trustful allies.
And because of that, we are sure that the reforms of NATO, which we are investing together and preparing together, will be resultative as it was before, but especially now, because we are seeing United States leadership. We're seeing the willingness of United States to see different NATO, different quality of NATO.
And I can be, probably, open. We talked to the President. I will joke a little bit—joking about that we need leadership sometimes for decision-making, even unpredictable leadership, to make enough leverage and pressure for the rivals to believe that we can make a decision. And that's, we think, this kind of leadership in President Trump.
And this is good, because without the leverage and pressure, there will be no additional spendings in our defense, in NATO. There will be no additional decisions for rotating military forces of United States in our countries. There will be no willingness to look into the matter of air defense, which we need very much.
So from all this point of views, we trust that our partner and ally is investing seriously in the future of our defense, not only our regions, but the NATO's territorial defense and in the peace and security of the world as it was before. Of course, the businesses are coming together. Ally in military cooperation, in—goes with economic cooperation. And I am very happy that today, in our business forum, we will sign two agreements with two American companies on the liquid gas cooperation.
Lithuania has a liquid gas station and factory, so-called "floating boat." But we can be independent, all three Baltic States, on the gas supply because of that. And this gives us strength and possibility to make our own decisions, not to depend on one supplier. And American liquid gas will come on time and will make us more independent in our decision-making and diversifies our gas supply.
And this is about a real friendship, about real cooperation between our region and United States. And this comes also together with trade matters, where today we see some discussions on the welfare level between United States and European Union. We are together with the decisions that trade needs to be useful and equally fair to all sides. There is no sense to go to the war. But decisions—if there is disbalances, need to be find. And this we will support as ally of United States.
So, together with international obligations in military, together with the cooperation in economy, together with the United States and the European Union in solving the trade disputes and issues—we are standing with and together. And we hope that, as the President said, next hundred years will be even better, closer, together, and we will be able to achieve and make more.
President Trump. Thank you. Thank you very much.
President Vejonis. Your Excellency, President Trump, my esteemed Baltic colleagues, dear friends, the Baltic-U.S. President summits are a reaffirmed of our shared commitment to fundamental values, our long-lasting friendship, and the steadfast partnership that we have enjoyed for nearly a century.
The United States of America is our closest friend and ally. I appreciate that we have each other's mutual support in our endeavors as well as in the security challenges we are facing.
Today we reflected on our many achievements and set a course for our future undertakings. We have agreed to enhance our defense and security cooperation. The Baltic States appreciate the United States commitment to deterrence policy in the Baltic region and the military assistance provided to our forces. We will continue to commit 2 percent of GDP towards the development of our military capabilities for the purposes of both strengthening NATO's posture in the eastern flank and contributing to international security.
The Baltic States and the United States acknowledged the need to continue the successful existing cooperation we have encountered in modern-day security threats such as terrorism, cyber and informational warfare, and nuclear proliferation.
Today all of us committed to placing greater emphasis on advancing our economic and trade and investment relationships. We recognize great potential in areas of innovation, modern technologies, and the digital economy. And we will explore possibilities for forging new partnerships to this end. I am particularly proud of successes of Latvian companies that have generated more than 2,000 jobs in the U.S.: in Georgia, in North Carolina, in California. It's—it just shows how important is this economic cooperation.
And finally, the Baltic States and the United States agreed to continue promoting closer people-to-people contacts, because these contacts are very important for every member of our society. And let me stress that President Trump was an outstanding host today. Thanks for hosting us in this—for us—in this very important event when we celebrate 100 years anniversary of our statehood.
President Trump. Thank you very much. Thank you.
President Kaljulaid. President Trump, my dear neighbors, dear journalists: I would like to thank President Trump and his administration for his political leadership in our region and for the very visible commitment, which has been demonstrated through a number of high-level visits, also, to our region.
This year, we do celebrate, indeed, our centennial anniversary. Of these 100 years, for 50, we were occupied by the Soviet Union. And people in our country got up every morning knowing that there are democratic countries, led by United States, who have never recognized the occupation of the Baltic States.
Our national flag—the blue, black, and white—was waving here in America throughout these years. It couldn't have been done at that time in Estonia. It was heartwarming. It was true sign of friendship. We knew it back then, and we remember it, and we are still grateful for it, will be forever.
Today we agree the declaration also reminding us about the foundations of our relations. My friends here spoke a lot about what we do. It's always worth to remind why we do this. We believe that peace, security, and prosperity depend on strong sovereign nations that respect their citizens at home and cooperate to promote peace abroad.
Our partnership is based on principles of democracy and individual liberty and the rule of law. These things are extremely important. Today we stand together, likeminded partners and allies. Yes, Baltic States are quite small, but they are important because of their location, but not only, because of what we do as contributing partners to the global security.
We find it very important to contribute in the counterterrorism fight. We find it important, since 2011, to spend 2 percent of our GDP on defense. We find it extremely important to remember that we stand together and we form something which we call in my office, "an axis of good." This is an axis of good. May it be—[inaudible]—for you all.
Yes, Estonia and the United States are very different by the size of their economy. But when we are speaking about digital economies, then this doesn't matter anymore. Estonia is one of the world leading nations of digital governance. And our companies are working with companies in your country to make sure that people elsewhere could benefit.
This cannot come without cybersecurity. There is a NATO Centre of Excellence on Cybersecurity in Estonia, because we have been attacked on cyber, long before anybody else. We still work together, we contribute, and we hope that we are really helpful to all of our partners.
Yes, we have also more conventional trade which we do together. People in Walmart going for their preordered packages in a couple of years will see them delivered by Estonian-made package delivery robots. We are proud of this.
And we're also proud of our legal environment in Estonia, which invites business to try and test new ideas in our place, which is tiny, and then upscale when it makes more sense to upscale. This way we work together both on defense matters, economic matters, and always stand on our common value base. This is the foundation of our relations.
Thank you for today for making this visible, this axis of good.
President Trump. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. We'll take a few questions. We're going to also have questions specifically for the Baltics.
Steve [Steve Holland]. Reuters.
Border Security/North Atlantic Treaty Organization/Syria
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Some of your military advisers are urging you to keep a contingent of U.S. troops in Syria to ensure the defeat of ISIS. What is your current thinking on this subject? Do you still want them out?
And secondly, could you clarify what you meant about having the U.S. military guard the U.S. border along with Mexico? Thank you, sir.
President Trump. Yes. First of all, the border. The Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws. We have horrible, horrible and very unsafe laws in the United States, and we're going to be able to do something about that, hopefully, soon. Hopefully, Congress will get their act together and get in and create some very powerful laws, like Mexico has and like Canada has and like almost all countries have.
We don't have laws. We have catch-and-release. You catch, and then you immediately release. And people come back years later for a court case, except they virtually never come back.
So we are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States. We have a meeting on it in a little while with General Mattis and everybody. And I think that it's something we have to do.
Now, the caravan—which is over a thousand people, coming in from Honduras—thought they were going to just walk right through Mexico and right through the border.
As you know, NAFTA is a phenomenal deal for Mexico. It's been a horrible deal for the United States. We're renegotiating it now. But it has been a horrible, horrible, embarrassing deal for the United States. This should have been terminated or renegotiated many years ago.
Mexico—we have a trade deficit with Mexico of over $100 billion a year. And I told Mexico yesterday that, because of the fact that their laws are so strong, they can do things about it that, hard to believe, the United States can't. I said, "I hope you're going tell that caravan not to get up to the border." And I think they're doing that, because as of 12 minutes ago, it was all being broken up. We'll see what happens. But we have to have strong borders. We need the wall. We've started building the wall. As you know, we have a billion-six [dollars]But we have to have strong borders. We need the wall. We've started building the wall. As you know, we have a billion-six [dollars]But we have to have strong borders. We need the wall. We've started building the wall. As you know, we have a billion-six [dollars]*.
As far as Syria is concerned, our primary mission, in terms of that, was getting rid of ISIS. We've almost completed that task, and we'll be making a decision very quickly, in coordination with others in the area, as to what we'll do. Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision. And I said: "Well, you know, you want us to stay? Maybe you're going to have to pay." But a lot of people—you know, we do a lot of things in this country. We do them for—we do them for a lot of reasons, but it's very costly for our country, and it helps other countries a hell of a lot more than it helps us.
So we're going to be making a decision. We've had a tremendous military success against ISIS, as you know. It's close to a hundred percent, as I just said. And we'll be making a decision as to what we do in the very near future. We'll be consulting, also, with groups of our people and groups of our allies. Okay?
Syria/Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Terrorist Organization
Q. So you're inclined to pull the troops out?
President Trump. Say it?
Q. You're inclined to pull the troops out?
President Trump. I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our Nation. We will have, as of 3 months ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East over the last 17 years. We get nothing—nothing—out of it. Nothing. And as you remember in civilian life, for years I said, "Keep the oil." I was always saying, "Keep the oil." We didn't keep the oil. Who got the oil? It was ISIS got the oil, a lot of it. That's what funded their campaigns. They took a lot of the oil, and it was largely responsible for funding. We should have kept the oil then. We didn't keep the oil.
So I want to get back. I want to rebuild our Nation. Think of it: $7 trillion over a 17-year period; we have nothing—nothing—except death and destruction. It's a horrible thing. So it's time. It's time. We were very successful against ISIS. We'll be successful against anybody militarily. But sometimes, it's time to come back home, and we're thinking about that very seriously. Okay? Thank you.
Baltic States-U.S. Relations
Q. Lithuanian Television. Mr. President, not about getting out, but getting in. The joint declaration mentions the periodic American deployments in the Baltic countries. What, specifically, can you commit to, having heard the requests and wishes of the Baltic States?
And, President, you have mentioned Russia as a terrorist state. Did you have a meeting of minds here as to the threat that Russia poses to the neighboring countries? Thank you.
President Trump. Well, we have a very strong relationship, as the Presidents will tell you, with the Baltic States. And we are with them. We're friends, and we're allies. And we are going to have a long-term, very fine relationship. In addition, we do business on trade. We work very hard on security together. Surprisingly, large numbers of trade. These are very industrious nations. Now, you're from there so you know exactly what I'm talking about. These are tremendous people, and very, very industrious. We do a lot of business on trade.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
President Grybauskaite. The second part of your question, of course, interesting, especially because we didn't talk in that ways about the rival, especially on our border. But then, a country behaves aggressively, performs wars, threatens, we have nuclear missiles on your border—of course, you sometimes call this country not very friendful. That's why we're investing into our defense, we're investing into our security, we're investing into reforming NATO, and we would like to see strong NATO, strong alliance. And that's what we are going to do together.
President Trump. Okay. Thank you. Would you like to choose somebody, President?
President Kaljulaid. Your turn. Your turn. Go ahead.
Foreign Investment in the Baltic States
Q. Mr. Trump, speaking about economy, about economical cooperation with my country, with Latvia, what is your message for investors in Latvia? And what is your opinion about the investment in Latvia?
President Trump. I think all three would be great places to invest: stable governments, incredible people—hard-working, industrious people. I think they would be great places to invest. I would have no problem with it. Although, I think as President of the United States, they would call it a slight conflict of interest, perhaps. [Laughter] You might be hearing from these people.
No, I think it would be a great place. I think all three would be a great place to invest. Okay?
Q. Thank you.
President Trump. Thank you.
President Kalilaid. Maria, Estonian TV.
Russia-U.S. Relations/North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Q. Maria-Ann Rohemäe, Estonian Public Broadcasting. First a question to President Trump. As said, the concern of the Baltic States is Russia. And before the press conference, you also said that, at the same time, a good relationship with Russia is not bad. But how are you going to deal with President Vladimir Putin? Is he as your enemy or as someone you can have dialogue with?
And the second question is to our President Kersti Kaljulaid. Is the defense of the Baltic States enough, or should there be something more? For example, air defense systems. Thank you.
President Trump. Well, I think we'll be able to have great dialogue, I hope. And if we can't, you'll be the first to know about it. Nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have. And you can—and I know you're nodding yes, because everyone agrees when they think about it—strong energy, the United States. My opponent was into other forms of energy, like windmills. We're very strong on energy. We're, essentially, now energy independent. We're an exporter of energy. That is not a positive for Russia, but it's certainly a positive for the United States. We just passed a $700 billion military budget; next year, $716 billion, the largest ever passed. We are going to have a military stronger than we've ever had before, by far. That's not exactly a great thing for Russia, but that's the way it is. We're going to have the strongest military that we ever had.
NATO: NATO was delinquent. They were not paying their bills. They were not paying. A lot of states, as we discussed, they were not paying what they should be paying. Since I came in, many, many billions of dollars additional have been paid by countries that weren't paying, and now they're paying. And they will have to pay more, frankly. They're going to have to pay more.
So there are many things that I've done and not only the 60 diplomats. Germany did four. France did four. We did 60. There's nobody been tougher on Russia. And with that being said, I think I could have a very good relationship with President Putin. I think. It's possible I won't. And you will know about it. [Laughter] Believe me, this room will know about it before I know about it. It's a real possibility that I could have a good relationship.
And remember this: Getting along with Russia is a good thing. Getting along with China is a good thing. Getting along with other countries, including your three countries, is a good thing, not a bad thing. So I think I could have a very good relationship with Russia and with President Putin. And if I did, that would be a great thing. And there's also a great possibility that that won't happen. Who knows? Okay? Thank you. Okay, another one.
President Kaljulaid. If I may, Maria-Ann, I would also like to contribute a little bit to your first question. As I reminded you all, we could trust the judgment of United States administrations and people, even while we were occupied. We could trust your judgment when we regained independence and seek membership of NATO, for example. We could, because we are on a common foundation. You can walk around the Mall and read. It's all written there. This foundation, our compass for both. And therefore, I trust the judgment of President Trump and his administration on that matter too.
Now, on your concrete question on air defense: Yes, we did discuss the deterrence capacity necessary to make sure that our deterrence is believable to everybody who might want to question it. But you know, equal partners don't come to talk to each other this way—that I come here to Washington to ask for visa freedom, or I come here to ask for, let's say, may you support me for this or for that. We analyze situation together, and we find the solutions together which will work for us all together, because we are in it all together. We are contributors—equal contributors—according to our size, to this process of guaranteeing our security.
President Trump. Okay.
President Vejonis. Maybe I will add to—that today, during our summit, we discussed security issues in our region with President Trump. And I am sure that this discussion will help a lot to continue any political dialogue with our eastern neighbor, Russia.
President Trump. Good. Pick a reporter, please. You can pick a reporter, a Baltic reporter, ideally. [Laughter] Real news, not fake news. Go ahead.
Do you want to pick? I think we have enough. Do we have enough? Yes? Go ahead. Pick—Mr. President, pick a reporter from the Baltics. Not the same man; he was very tough. Go ahead, pick a reporter.
President Vejonis. Okay, I can——
President Trump. Yes, go ahead. Yes, please.
Q. Hi. My name is Anud. I'm from Latvia. So I have a question for our President from Latvia. You're going to San Francisco after your meeting here in Washington, and you're meeting some people who are making business connections from Latvia and the U.S. Do you see any certain outcomes out of that?
President Vejonis. First of all, I think, during our summit I will repeat again that we discussed how we can strengthen our economic cooperation between Baltic States and the U.S. And of course, my visit to California, to Silicon Valley, will give, I think, good basis for better understanding what our businesspeople need to be presented here and what I can help—how I can help them to be here. Because, anyway, I think all these cooperations between Baltic States businesspeople and U.S. businesspeople is very important for our societies—for our business societies.
And, as I said, we are thinking not only about investments in our country, and we are trying to make better environment for investments in all of our countries, but also our businesspeople are invested here. And I think it is important for both countries: for Latvia and for U.S.—for the U.S.
President Trump. I just want to conclude by saying that I am very impressed with these three great Baltic nations and these three great Presidents. Thank you very much for being here
Thank you, everybody. Thank you.
NOTE: The President's news conference began at 1:49 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis; and 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.<p>* White House correction.
Donald J. Trump, The President's News Conference With President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia, President Raimonds Vejonis of Latvia, and President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/332513