The US president told a Montana campaign rally last week he’s coming to “tell NATO: ‘You’ve got to start paying your bills. The United States is not going to take care of everything!'” The crowd erupted in applause as Trump returned to his familiar rant against Germany’s low defense spending and its leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said he’d “told Angela” that he “can’t guarantee it, but we’re protecting you and … I don’t know how much protection we get protecting you.”
This chipping away at the bedrock of the alliance — the mutual defense pledge embodied in its Article V — is just the latest threat to NATO’s hopes to pull off a polished well-choreographed summit on June 11 and 12 to christen its glossy new headquarters.
Now a “success” may well be characterized as the absence of diplomatic disasters like those that befell the G7 in early June, where Trump refused to sign the final communique, called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest” and was captured in a photo that went viral glaring across the table at an equally stern German chancellor.
“We’re absolutely right to be nervous,” said Sophia Besch, a fellow with the Centre for European Reform (CER), about the possibility a Trump-Merkel clash could derail the summit. “[Trump] is framing the 2 percent as the golden ticket for any European leaders to get into his good graces, and that’s why everyone is so worried.” Only seven allies other than the US invest in their militaries at the desired level, though all 29 are increasing their defense budgets now, a trend that started in 2014.
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