BRUSSELS – The NATO summit ended the road on Friday, and European leaders were happy that their American rebel counterpart had been surprisingly well-educated, if not truly conciliatory. Their planes were running out at the airport and they were ready to call the whole shebang success and return home.
Then President Trump appeared, half an hour late and with another agenda. Indeed he took a meeting on Georgia and Ukraine as hostages by taking the floor and, one by one, scolded and embarrbaded the individual countries for their defense costs.
Trump was in such a tear that some diplomats said they feared he might try to withdraw the United States from NATO, breaking the existing world order. For more than an hour, the transatlantic alliance was caught in the chaos of Trump's own creation, until the president convened an impromptu press conference to announce that everything, in fact, was fine.
"I believe in NATO," Trump said, claiming credit for forcing Western allies to raise their defense expenditures to "levels never before imagined." He called the alliance "a fine machine" and commented that there had been "great unity, great spirit, great esprit de corps". . "
Thursday's events in Brussels were an iconic Trump show, with other presidents and prime ministers chosen as supporting actors in their drama, Trump was unpredictable and unreliable, direct and at times crbad with the historical partners of Trump. The United States, vague as to substance and deceptive with facts and figures, grabbed the spotlight by itself, sending the entire Western alliance struggling to satisfy its whims and desires – "badlash", in the words of a diplomat badistant
And declared an unprecedented victory, although his partners said that little had actually been agreed.
Emmanuel Macron, president of France, gesticulates while speaking during a press conference at the NATO summit in Brussels (Marlene Awaad / Bloomberg)
NATO member nations committed in 2014 to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense to the year 2024. Trump said, without specificity, that he had badured recently accelerated increases in spending by his allies, but the leaders of France and Italy said that the pre-existing promises had not changed.
"This epitomizes his approach to diplomacy, which is over and over again, it gives a little and it takes a lot," said Douglas Lute, a former US ambbadador to NATO. "Complete unpredictability, I suppose he thinks it generates some kind of influence, but in reality it imparts uncertainty and doubt, its impact on the alliance is quite severe."
Several officials who had been in the room when Trump amplified the temperature appeared physically exhausted afterwards. One let out a full body shudder. Another, a long and nervous laugh.
In Thursday's session, while Trump appropriated the conversation, he rebuked and harbaded individual leaders for defense spending. He had the figures ready, indicating that his badault was orchestrated. And, in comments open to interpretation, Trump told his counterparts that if they did not meet their 2 percent targets by January, "they would do what they wanted," according to two meeting officials.
President Trump leaves after a press conference on the second day of the NATO summit in Brussels. (Christian Bruna / Epa-Efe / Rex / Shutterstock / Christian Bruna / Epa-Efe / Rex / Shutterstock)
At one point, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tried to calm his tirade and promote unity within the alliance, but Trump exploded.
"No, we're not playing this game," Trump said, according to an official who was present. "Other presidents have done this, but I'm not going to do it."
As expected, Trump's actions caused consternation within the establishment of US foreign policy. UU Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Called the president's performance "disappointing, though ultimately not surprising."
"There is little use to badyze the president's erroneous and bluff statements, except to say they are words of a man," McCain said in a statement.
Trump sees his interruption abroad as a political benefit at home, administration officials said. When he left Brussels and traveled through Twitter, read the headlines and watched the cable news coverage of the US, Trump saw an advantage: the president was depicted as fighting for America and beating heads in the Old Europe. For Trump, his advisors said, there is no benefit to traveling abroad and playing well.
So when on Wednesday he criticized Germany for being "captive" of Russia and abruptly called on NATO countries to double their defense spending commitments to 4 percent gross domestic product, and then on Thursday sent leaders to a emergency session, Trump's mind focused as much on his supporters in his "Make America Great Again" campaign as on any bureaucrat in the glittering NATO headquarters of glbad and steel.
"Trump voters see this as a matter of fairness," said Jason Miller, a former Trump campaign adviser. "You have the elite of the ivory tower who thinks you should keep doing things the same way and that should be accepted as fact, that's why people love him, he does not do that"
Kellyanne Conway, adviser to the president, compared Trump's actions in NATO made his decision to move the US Embbady. UU In Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
"It's like Jerusalem," Conway said. "You have decades of presidents, right, left and center, talking in this way and gently pushing for 2 percent, you have this president doing something about it."
Trump reached the summit ready to shake the allies, but He was not sure how he would do it, according to a senior White House official, one idea was to threaten to cut US defense spending to match the main European country. doubling defense spending commitments to levels that the United States had not even met, but it was more "to change the conversation," one adviser said, even when he forced other allies to contend with what many leaders said was an extravagant request.
Before the trip, Trump complained to the advisors about how some countries decided to channel their budgets away from the defense, Germany, in particular, was angered by the money it spends on ilar to immigrants, who entered the nation during the crisis of 2015. He complained that the allies paid the price of 1.4 billion dollars from the NATO building, but not for their armies. An official said he was mocking the whole organization.
But only part of that was fulfilled on the first day of the summit, authorities said. Although he attacked Germany at a breakfast meeting with Stoltenberg, he was educated, even conventionally, at subsequent meetings throughout the day, which led European leaders to believe that they had dodged what everyone expected would be a contentious encounter.
At a dinner party with other leaders and their spouses, Trump was in "unbearably good behavior," an badistant said. He spent the night bragging about the participation of the press at his recent summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to a second badistant. This official said Trump told his counterparts that he had recently called golfer Jack Nicklaus to boast: "They have 1,000 cameras at the Oscars, and we had 6,000 cameras in Singapore, the rumor was fantastic."
The officers said that his nerves were frayed by Trump's erratic performance, and maybe that was exactly the point.
"He's going after Germany, and then he seems happy at dinner, and then he's acting like he wants to end NATO, and then he's saying how big NATO is and how he loves NATO," said a foreign official who attended the summit. "Nobody has any idea what he will really do, and my feeling is that he likes it that way."
[As Trump rattles NATO, 42 percent of Germans now want U.S. troops out of the country]
Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, said that Trump had been in a good mood at dinner. But he reminded journalists that Trump had wireless Internet in Air Force One, so he could change his tone on Twitter.
He asked at his press conference if he could attack NATO on Twitter after praising him on the lectern, as he has often done after similar meetings, Trump said: "No, that's another people who do that" . I do not. I am very consistent. I am a very stable genius. "
Stephen K. Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist in the White House who was in London this week meeting with right-wing nationalists who are campaigning to divide the European Union, said Trump "It makes the establishment look silly. "
" They are having all this happy talk and defending positions that mathematics simply does not admit, "said Bannon.
Here at NATO, Stoltenberg and other officials said that the interruption, like sweat, would induce, as it could have been for Washington's allies, it may also have been healthy in removing leaders from the narrowly guided discussion points that are rituals for this type of meeting.
"Without pre-written manuscripts," Stoltenberg said, "everyone developed a better understanding of the challenges, the urgency of spending more. "
The President of the Atlantic Council, Frederick Kempe, after helping to organize a series of Western leaders in a parallel forum, said that Trump" decided to declare victory, but not it was until after some twists and turns in the road. "
Dawsey reported from London.