NATO Summit Begins With Trump’s Criticism and Promises
“I have no thoughts on it, It’s going to be a very important election for this great country, but I have no thoughts on it,” Trump said Tuesday, speaking alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after their bilateral meeting, as leaders of member nations gathered for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit.
But the U.S. president could not resist giving his opinion about the British prime minister, saying, “Boris is very capable and I think he’ll do a good job.”
In a recent interview, Johnson warned Trump against giving him an endorsement, saying it was best “for neither side to be involved in the other’s election campaigns.”
In October, Trump praised Johnson as “the exact right guy for the times” and said that the Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn would be “so bad” as prime minister
Leaders rarely violate diplomatic norms and wade into other countries’ elections.
Trump also said the United States has no interest in the Britain’s National Health Service.
“We have absolutely nothing to do with it and we wouldn’t want to if you handed it to us on a silver platter,” Trump said.
Trump’s interest for the privatization of the NHS has been a key focus of the British election, with Corbyn accusing Johnson and the Conservative Party of including it in a post-Brexit deal with the United States. Johnson has denied the accusation.
Trump and the British prime minister will meet in group events with other NATO leaders but so far it is still unclear whether the two will have a one-on-one meeting. Other than his meeting with Stoltenberg, Trump is scheduled to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Criticism of Macron
Prior to his meeting with Macron later Tuesday, Trump criticized the French president for his recent statement describing NATO as experiencing “brain death,” saying the comment was a “nasty statement.”
Trump said Macron’s remark was “insulting” to other members. “You just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO.”
In the past Trump has said that NATO is “obsolete” and has repeatedly expressed his desire to leave the alliance.
Macron’s comments came in an interview with the London-based magazine The Economist published last month. The French president has since defended his words, saying NATO “needed a wake-up call” and should be focused on issues other than the amount of money each member spends on its military.
Defense spending has been a focus for Trump since he took office in 2017 and complained the United States was taking on an outsized financial burden, when it comes to NATO.
Stoltenberg praised Trump on Tuesday, saying his leadership on the issue is “having a real impact.” He cited a $130 billion increase in defense budgets among the non‑U.S. NATO members and said that would go to $400 billion by 2024.
In addition to budget discussions, NATO’s secretary general said leaders would be talking about counterterrorism efforts, arms control, relations with Russia and the rise of China.
The summit comes as Trump faces an impeachment investigation back home. He repeated his criticism Tuesday of Democrats who control the House of Representatives, saying it is unfair to hold hearings while he is attending the summit.
But when asked if the proceedings weaken his position as he meets with other leaders, the Trump said, “I don’t think so.”
Trump is not the first U.S. president to attend a NATO summit under the cloud of impeachment. In 1974 Richard Nixon went to NATO’s 25th anniversary meeting in Brussels while the U.S. House of Representatives was concluding its impeachment inquiry. Nixon stepped down a few weeks later.
Meeting with supporters
In between meetings with Stoltenberg and Macron, Trump met with supporters in a closed press event. Tuesday’s fundraiser was expected to raise $3 million for his re-election campaign.
Trump is also scheduled to meet with members of the royal family later Tuesday. He and first lady Melania Trump will have tea with Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall before joining other NATO leaders at a reception hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
US President Donald Trump kicked off a tense two-day NATO summit on Tuesday by criticizing French President Emmanuel Macron’s comment about the “brain death” of the military alliance.
What Trump said on NATO
Speaking to the press on the summit’s sidelines, Trump:
– Called Macron’s comments “nasty,” “insulting” and “very dangerous,” adding: “Nobody needs NATO more than France.”
– Denied US ties with the military alliance are shaky but said that he could “see France breaking off” from NATO.
– Said that Russia “wants to make a deal” on nuclear control and arms control — and that he wants to bring in China into the talks.
– Reiterated his call for European partners to increase defense spending — calling out Germany in particular for falling short.
– Said “delinquent” countries that don’t meet their NATO obligations will be dealt with, possibly through trade.
– Voiced confidence that a “minor dispute” with France on trade could be worked out after he threatened new tariffs on French goods.
– Said NATO was becoming bigger and stronger, and agreed with Macron that NATO needed more flexibility.
How Macron responded:
– The French president told reporters he stands by his “brain death” comments, even if they “shook up a lot of people.”
– He said NATO should not only be concerned about funding, but needed to refocus itself on new threats.
– Macron pointed out that NATO members have different definitions of what constitutes terrorism.
– He called on Turkish leaders to clarify their position at this summit, saying that “they now are fighting against those who fought with us; and sometimes they work with ISIS proxies,” using another name for Islamic State (IS).
NATO expansion threat to Russia
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country was open to cooperation with NATO.
“We have repeatedly expressed readiness to jointly resist real threats including international terrorism, local armed conflicts (and) the danger of uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.
Speaking at a meeting of military leaders in the Russian resort of Sochi, Putin criticized the alliance’s continued expansion, which he said posed a threat to Russian security.
He also argued that NATO was outdated, saying “bloc stereotypes of thinking of previous years cannot be an effective tool for seeking and taking effective decisions in the fast-changing conditions of the modern world.”
‘No deadline’ on China trade deal
Trump suggested that a long-awaited trade deal with China would have to wait until after the next US presidential election in November 2020 — with no end currently in sight to the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing.
“I have no deadline, no. In some ways I think it’s better to wait until after the election with China,” he told reporters.
US support for Turkey
Trump also defended his decision to pull US troops out of northern Syria and voiced his support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who subsequently launched an offensive against Kurdish forces in the region.
“I like Turkey and I get along very well with the president,” Trump said.
Ahead of the summit, Erdogan vowed to oppose a NATO plan to defend Baltic countries unless the alliance supports it in recognizing the Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist group.
European leaders are due to question Erdogan at the summit over his actions in northern Syria.
The leaders of NATO’s 29 members have gathered in London for a summit to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the transatlantic military alliance.
Source: Defense Aerospace