Trump­nado touches down in UK af­ter jolt­ing Nato

Hawke's Bay Today - - Digest -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump makes his long-de­bated visit to Bri­tain amid pol­i­tics, pomp and protests, hav­ing rat­tled the Nato sum­mit in Bel­gium.

Un­der fire for his warm em­brace of Vladimir Putin, Trump turned a spot­light on Ger­many’s ties to Rus­sia and ques­tioned the value of the mil­i­tary al­liance that has de­fined Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy for decades.

He de­clared that a joint nat­u­ral gas pipe­line ven­ture with Moscow has left Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s Govern­ment “to­tally con­trolled” and “cap­tive to Rus­sia”. In a stroke, he shifted at­ten­tion away from his own ties to the Krem­lin just days be­fore he meets one-on-one with Putin.

In Lon­don, he ar­rives at a time of re­bel­lion in the Tories’ ranks, with Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May deal­ing with min­is­te­rial res­ig­na­tions over Brexit. Trump will at­tend a din­ner with May, min­is­ters and busi­ness lead­ers at Blen­heim Palace in Ox­ford­shire this morn­ing NZT. He will hold talks with May at the PM’s coun­try res­i­dence, meet the Queen at Wind­sor Cas­tle, and travel to a Trump golf course in Scot­land.

Yes­ter­day, the Pres­i­dent used scorch­ing lan­guage to ques­tion the ne­ces­sity of the Nato al­liance that formed a bul­wark against Soviet ag­gres­sion, tweet­ing: “What good is Nato if Ger­many is pay­ing Rus­sia bil­lions of dol­lars for gas and en­ergy?”

Merkel hit back im­me­di­ately, not only deny­ing Trump’s con­tention but sug­gest­ing that his com­fort­able up­bring­ing in the US gave him no stand­ing to spout off on the world stage about Ger­many. Draw­ing on her own back­ground grow­ing up in com­mu­nist East Ger­many, she said: “I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced my­self a part of Ger­many con­trolled by the Soviet Union, and I’m very happy to­day that we are united in free­dom [in] Ger­many and can thus say that we can de­ter­mine our own poli­cies.”

Trump de­manded through Twit­ter Nato mem­bers “pay 2% of GDP IM­ME­DI­ATELY, not by 2025” for their mil­i­tary ef­forts. He then rat­tled US al­lies fur­ther by pri­vately sug­gest­ing mem­ber na­tions spend 4 per cent of their GDP on the mil­i­tary — more than even the US pays, ac­cord­ing to Nato sta­tis­tics. It was just the lat­est in Trump’s de­mands and in­sults crit­ics fear will un­der­mine the al­liance. And it came just days be­fore Trump’s sit down with Putin in Fin­land.

How­ever, a for­mal sum­mit dec­la­ra­tion is­sued by the Nato lead­ers reaf­firmed their “un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment” to the 2 per cent pledge set in 2014 and made no ref­er­ence to go­ing higher. Trump has re­peat­edly mis­char­ac­terised the spend­ing tar­get, wrongly de­scrib­ing it as a fee coun­tries pay to Nato or the US rather than their own mil­i­tary. Nato es­ti­mates that 15 mem­bers, or just over half, will meet the bench­mark by 2024.

Trump’s tongue-lash­ing ac­cel­er­ated dur­ing a pre-sum­mit break­fast, when he had a con­fronta­tion with Nato Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg. “We’re sup­posed to pro­tect you against Rus­sia but they’re pay­ing bil­lions of dol­lars to Rus­sia and I think that’s very in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” Trump said, re­peat­edly de­scrib­ing Ger­many as “cap­tive to Rus­sia”.

Trump’s harsh words for Merkel, whose coun­try has hosted tens of thou­sands of US troops that have been key to post-World War II sta­bil­ity in Europe, struck at the core of the al­liance. Hours af­ter the break­fast, Merkel and Trump ap­peared to play nice. Trump said the two had a “very, very good re­la­tion­ship” and con­grat­u­lated Merkel on her “tremen­dous suc­cess.”

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