Wednesday, 18 July, 2018

Trump's Germany outburst sets tone at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation visit

Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump review French tanks during the Bastille Day military parade in Paris on July 14 2017 Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump review French tanks during the Bastille Day military parade in Paris on July 14 2017 Credit JOEL SAGET AFP
| 13 July, 2018, 07:49

"Boris Johnson's a friend of mine".

Though NATO has much to be triumphalist about as it stages its first biennial summit at its new billion dollar headquarters in Brussels, many leaders appear anxious as they face the alliance's de-facto leader, Donald Trump, who brings with him tough talk on defence spending.

Trump's weeklong trip to Europe will continue with a stop in Scotland before ending with a sit-down in Helsinki with Putin.

Carefully-choreographed sessions and the leaders' dinner in a Brussels museum on Wednesday night are unlikely to mollify Trump, NATO diplomats say, as they found out to their dismay in May a year ago at a special dinner to welcome the president.

And even though Trump downplayed his upcoming meeting, he compared it to his recent meeting with the leader of North Korea: "I think meeting with people is great".

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation agreed in 2014 that each member would boost military spending to 2% of its gross domestic product by 2024.

With allies fearing he could strike some sort of deal with Nato´s key adversary, Trump said that he saw Putin as a "competitor" but not an "enemy". In the past few weeks, Trump has sent sharply worded letters to the leaders of several European countries, including Germany, Italy and Norway, as well as to Canada, warning that the USA was losing patience.

But Trump's comments about many countries not paying their way in the alliance in exchange for the United States umbrella has put many leaders on the back foot.

The moment flew by as a bit of off-the-cuff commentary after a news report by MSNBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker. And as everyone absolutely predicted, he immediately, upon starting these meetings, made a complete ass of both himself and all of us here in the United States.

"So we're supposed to protect Germany, but they're getting their energy from Russian Federation".


Mr Tusk also made the point that the USA did not and would not have a better ally than the EU, reminding the president that it was European troops who had fought and died in Afghanistan after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

"He has a clear message, I think, that has increased interest and understanding of defense spending, and what we've seen is that defense spending has started to increase", Stoltenberg said.

Expectations are high in Russian Federation that Putin, with more than 18 years of global experience, will have the edge on Trump, who had not held elected office before he was inaugurated last year. "And dear Europe, spend more on your defense because everybody expects an ally that is well-prepared and equipped".

Trump's aides seated around the table, including chief of staff John Kelly and the US ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, looked visibly uncomfortable at points.

According to trump, the foreign trade deficit is $151 billion.

Experts fear the trip could produce a repeat of the dynamics from Trump's last trip overseas, when he admonished Group of Seven allied nations at a summit in Canada before heading to Singapore, where he showered praise on one of America's longest-standing adversaries, North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

Back in the U.S., Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement describing Trump's "brazen insults and denigration of one of America's most steadfast allies, Germany", as "an embarrassment".

"It's hard not to believe he wasn't performing for Vladimir Putin, given how kind of overt that was", said co-host Mika Brzezinski.

Kremlin critics at home and overseas see Trump's decision to grant Putin a summit against that backdrop as conferring worldwide legitimacy and status on Putin, something they say he doesn't deserve given the lack of meaningful change in Russia's policies internationally.

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