Trump's 2nd Day At The NATO Summit

Jul 12, 2018
Originally published on July 12, 2018 8:13 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump was on his way to morning meetings at the NATO summit in Brussels today, and he was tweeting more criticism of the NATO alliance. In a pretty familiar theme, he complained that the United States spent more on defense than its allies. And he highlighted what he sees as a contradiction, that Germany buys energy from Russia while NATO identifies Russia as a primary threat. Now, let's talk to NPR's Alice Fordham who joins us from Brussels and has been covering this.

Good morning, Alice.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So Trump keeps reiterating these points on Twitter, hammering them home over and over again. Are his Twitter rants having an impact on these meetings?

FORDHAM: Well, the Twitter rants and the rants in person here - but no, they were not unexpected. Aside from the fact that the behavior is obviously characteristic, before this summit started, NATO officials and analysts were saying they were expecting the president to be outspoken; they were expecting this to be a frank exchange of views in meetings. And while it is unnerving for some people here that the appearance of the unity of the alliance is fractured a bit by these pronouncements and they really do wish that Trump wouldn't mix economic policy with security policy the way he does, the leaders have not responded acrimoniously. And officials here have pointed to the results of this summit, which they say have been significant.

GREENE: OK, significant results - what are they?

FORDHAM: Well, actually - maybe I can say, first of all, that if it weren't for the fact that the mercurial behavior of Trump were attracting so much attention, we might all be talking a bit more about some of the quite alarming things being said here in Brussels about the world we live in now. So the whole alliance agreed on a communique that was put out last night. And reading it, it is very clear that the focus of these countries right now is Russia and they consider Russian aggression an urgent and a pressing threat.

The communique contains just this litany of things that NATO blames it for - so obviously the things we pay quite a lot of attention to like the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the use of a chemical weapon to poison a defector in the U.K. But there's less well-known things in there, like denying and obfuscating about a new weapon system it has, interfering in the elections of a little country of Montenegro. And it's true that it also includes details of supporting new initiatives with local forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. And terrorism and cyberwarfare are mentioned. But the focus, as I said, is very much on Russia.

GREENE: OK. Well, if this is a dangerous, unpredictable world in the view of NATO and NATO, of course, is a military alliance, what is their plan for, you know, possibly military responses to this world?

FORDHAM: So they are ramping up. Trump is calling for them to ramp up. But they have been ramping up for a while, and this communique is declaration of intent on that. So there's an initiative known as 30-30-30-30...

GREENE: (Laughter) OK.

FORDHAM: ...Which would require NATO to have 30 land battalions, 30 air fighter squadrons and 30 ships ready to deploy within 30 days. And that's to allay a lot of concerns that exist that NATO would be slow to move in the event of an emergency. And their focus is getting to the Russian border.

Then today there are meetings that will happen to discuss Afghanistan. The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, is here for the second day of talks. There'll be discussion of whether NATO will commit to more years supporting Afghan troops after the Taliban has made gains recently. Another thing that's interesting and kind of at odds with Trump's threats is that there's going to be a new headquarters as part of a new command structure in Norfolk, Va., which doesn't make it look like the U.S. is going to walk away immediately.

GREENE: Alice Fordham reporting on the NATO summit in Brussels. Alice, thanks a lot.

FORDHAM: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.