NATO Summit Begins With Trump’s Criticism and Promises

 In China, GDI, Russia, Defense, Air, Threats, France, Turkey
LONDON — U.S. President Donald Trump began his London vis­it with a promise to stay out of Britain’s gen­er­al elec­tion, sched­uled to be held on December 12.

“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

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.

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The US pres­i­dent called Macron’s “brain dead” remarks on NATO “nasty,” say­ing he could see Paris leav­ing the mil­i­tary alliance. The com­ments set the tone for what is expect­ed to be anoth­er tense sum­mit among NATO allies.

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.

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Source: Defense Aerospace

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