The discussion was a healthy one, the official said. It created more urgency and it also allowed the summit meeting to end with an agreed message on improving spending, far better than an outcome where Mr. Trump was vocally unhappy and the others were perceived not to care, he added.
Indeed, Mr. Trump came away mollified, broadcasting his own sense of triumph, though he had said the day before that member nations had to reach the 2 percent goal immediately, and that the target should rise to 4 percent.
“In the end I think the meeting was less divisive than feared,” said Alexander Vershbow, a former NATO deputy secretary general. “I think it’s the reality show that the president loves. There wasn’t enough drama, so Trump has a tantrum, knocks over the table, and allies are used as props in his reality show.”
That being said, he added, “NATO goes on.”
The substance of the meeting, he and others said, is in the communiqué. That document, a product of nearly a year of work, commits the alliance to a stronger deterrent against Russia, more efforts on cybersecurity, a strengthening of the alliance’s southern strategy and a new training program for Iraq, Tunisia and Libya. It also called for nations to devote at least 20 percent of their growing military budgets to equipment and modernization.
The United States pays 22 percent of NATO’s budget, which covers things like offices, salaries and some equipment used in joint operations. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, of the $603 billion that the United States spends on the military each year, about $31 billion goes to Europe.
In the end, some analysts criticized Mr. Trump for fabricating a ruckus that, however much it might serve his political ends, was harmful to the alliance.
“NATO always had a good story to tell at this summit, with the communiqué reflecting a robust and resilient alliance that is making real progress on a range of challenges,” said Amanda Sloat, a former State Department official now at the Brookings Institution. “Trump’s belligerent tweets and taunts unfortunately overshadowed what should have been a straightforward message of success.”