Trump A NATO Embarrassment
Allies Amused, Dismayed, Annoyed, Alarmed
Trump is once again vague about NATO mutual defense REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
From L-R, Belgium’s King Philippe, U.S. President Donald Trump, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belgian’s Prime Minister Charles Michel gather with NATO member leaders to pose for a family picture before the start of their summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017.
By Ray Cunneff
The video of Trump shoving aside the Prime Minister of Montenegro, the newest NATO member, so that he could strike a pose for the cameras, perfectly captures Trump's ego and arrogance in seven seconds. (It seems the most dangerous place one can be is between Trump and a camera or a microphone.)
Trump shoves aside Montenegro's Prime Minister Dusko Markovic to strike a pose
Trump said he was not there to lecture in Saudi Arabia, but felt free to publicly berate our NATO allies for not paying their fair share (a 2014 agreement with President Obama gave them ten years to gradually reach the goal of 2% GDP) and added insult to injury by questioning the cost of the new NATO headquarters.
Trump barely mentioned Russia, insisted NATO's focus should be on terrorism and immigration, and did not reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Article 5 mutual defense between the alliance members as was expected.
Donald Tusk, who represents the leaders of NATO's 28 member states as president of the European Council, made it clear after the morning meeting that there had been several areas of disagreement. "Some issues remained open like climate and trade," Tusk told reporters. "And I am not 100 percent sure that we can say today — 'we' means Mr. President and myself — that we have a common position, common opinion, about Russia."
Sharp differences emerged between Trump and Tusk over the intentions and policies of President Vladimir Putin, an increasing source of anxiety in Europe in light of the country's apparent attempts to meddle in elections in Europe and the United States, and its increasingly aggressive, expansionist foreign policy, notably in Ukraine and Crimea.
The Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, relatively recent NATO members, are considered particularly vulnerable to Russian aggression as Putin claims any nation with significant Russian-speaking populations should rightfully be under rule of the former Soviet sphere of influence.
Trump and France's Macron exchange "white-knuckle handshake"
Earlier, Mr Trump and Emmanuel Macron, France’s newly elected young president, exchanged an awkward power handshake at their first face-to-face meeting. According to a report by the White House correspondents’ pool, “Each president gripped the other’s hand with considerable intensity, their knuckles turning white and their jaws clenching and faces tightening”.
Philip Rucker of the Washington Post said: “Trump tried twice to release and Macron held on tight … It was quite a handshake, two alphas.”
Trump is known for his habit of pumping people’s hands and then yanking them forcefully towards him in a gesture that psychologists believe is intended to demonstrate dominance.
The 39-year-old Mr Macron may have been prepared for his American counterpart’s strong-arm handshake and simply held on tighter.
The alarm in Europe over Trump's presidency has diminished somewhat since his election, partly because Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence have gone to great lengths to reassure NATO and EU members of America's commitment to mutual defense. But Trump, who once described Brussels as a "hellhole" overrun with radicals, remains an object of deep suspicion in the city and throughout Europe.
Today's performance did nothing to assuage their doubts and fears.