NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has discussed with Donald Trump has discussed the conflict in eastern Ukraine during a phone call, and both agreed to meet in Brussels later this year.
The previous U.S. administration and other allies slapped sanctions on Russia for its illegal 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and in retaliation for Moscow’s support for separatist militants in eastern Ukraine, where a flare-up in fighting has killed at least 35 in the past week.
Since the conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in April 2014, more than 9,750 people have been killed.
Trump in the past has criticized NATO, once calling it “obsolete,” and has expressed a desire for warmer relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, worrying some European leaders about his level of commitment.
In the call, Trump expressed “strong support” for NATO but urged fellow members to contribute more financially, in line with his campaign vow to get members to increase their funding for the alliance.
“The leaders discussed how to encourage all NATO allies to meet their defense-spending commitments,” the official statement said.
The White House added that Trump agreed to attend a meeting of NATO leaders in Europe in May.
Trump has drawn fire at home for wanting to warm up ties with Putin.
In an interview broadcast on Sunday during Fox Channel’s Super Bowl pre-game show, Trump waved off concern from interviewer Bill O’Reilly that “Putin’s a killer.”
“We’ve got a lot of killers…You think our country’s so innocent? You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump said, citing the 2003 war in Iraq.