Trump takes another shot at NATO as he prepares to meet with alliance leaders

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to leave Tuesday for a NATO meeting in Brussels, President Donald Trump took fresh aim at other members of the alliance for not meeting spending targets for defense spending.

"Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting - NATO," Trump wrote in an early morning tweet. "The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer."

Trump also aired grievances about the U.S. trade relationship with the European Union.

The tweet comes in advance of a weeklong trip that has already riled many leaders within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Days after their meeting, Trump plans to sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin for their first one-on-one summit, a meeting in Helsinki, that could be more cordial.

In between, Trump also plans to meet in Britain with Prime Minister Theresa May and fly to Scotland to play golf for the weekend.

Trump has long been spoiling for a fight on the issue of defense spending.

"I'm going to tell NATO - you got to start paying your bills," he told a rowdy rally in Montana last week. "The United States is not going to take care of everything. We are the schmucks that are paying for the whole thing."

Last month, he sent letters to leaders whose countries are not living up to their NATO defense spending pledges, warning that the United States might cut them off if they don't pour more money into their militaries. But NATO members, including Germany, argue they have boosted contributions as part a pledge to kick in at least 2 percent of annual economic output by the middle of the next decade.

Trump also has questioned why the United States should run a trade deficit with nations it is spending money to protect, suggesting he could use security guarantees as a bargaining chip in trade talks.

Trump's tweet on Tuesday echoed another one from Monday, in which he singled out Germany for not meeting defense spending targets.

Trump is scheduled to depart the White House shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday en route to Andrews Air Force Base, where he'll depart for Brussels.