Trump met by Brit protest, pomp

Hours af­ter roil­ing NATO, he en­ters new­est ‘hot spot’

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin

BLEN­HEIM PALACE, Eng­land — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump traded one hot spot for an­other Thurs­day, leav­ing be­hind a con­tentious NATO gath­er­ing in Brus­sels and mov­ing on to Bri­tain, where he found a govern­ment in tur­moil and siz­able protests shad­ow­ing his ev­ery move.

All was serene, how­ever, dur­ing a lav­ish evening wel­com­ing cer­e­mony for the U.S. leader at Blen­heim Palace

Hun­dreds of demon­stra­tors chanted out­side the U.S. am­bas­sador’s res­i­dence where Trump was stay­ing on the out­skirts of Lon­don, pro­vid­ing a pre­view of the protests ex­pected dur­ing his two-day British stay.

Trump was whisked away to an oa­sis of warm greet­ings at a black-tie re­cep­tion at Blen­heim, birth­place of Win­ston Churchill, the larger-than-life British leader cited by the pres­i­dent as a model of lead­er­ship.

That was just one of sev­eral he­li­copter rides on the agenda for Trump, whose staff opted to keep him out of cen­tral Lon­don and the swarms of demon­stra­tors who are likely to pro­vide some of the defin­ing images of his first of­fi­cial trip to the U.K.

Trump’s Marine One de­par­ture from the am­bas­sador’s res­i­dence was met by jeers from demon­stra­tors bang­ing pots and pans, and an­other pack of pro­test­ers lined roads near the palace. Their signs read: “Dump Trump,” “Lock Him Up” and “There Will Be Hell Toupee.”

Po­lice worked over­time, British Prme Min­is­ter Theresa May walks with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump into Blen­heim Palace for a black-tie din­ner. their days off can­celed.

Trump was greeted at the palace by British Prime Min­ster Theresa May, whose govern­ment has been rocked by res­ig­na­tions from on­go­ing tu­mult over Brexit, the na­tion’s con­tentious vote to leave the Euro­pean Union.

Be­fore leav­ing Brus­sels, Trump played down the protests but ac­knowl­edged that he ex­pected ten­sion in Bri­tain, also reel­ing from its soc­cer team’s de­feat in the World Cup semi­fi­nals.

“I’m go­ing to a few hot spots,” Trump said, look­ing ahead to Bri­tain and his sum­mit in Finland on Mon- day with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. “And I said, ‘Putin may be the eas­i­est of them all.’ You never know. But I’m go­ing to a pretty hot spot right now — right? — with a lot of res­ig­na­tions.”

The out­door ar­rival cer­e­mony at Blen­heim — Trump wore a tuxedo and first lady Me­la­nia Trump a but­ter-yel­low, chif­fon offthe-shoul­der gown — was a grand af­fair marked by a mil­i­tary band in bearskin hats, hun­dreds of busi­ness lead­ers in black tie and gor­geous set­ting sun­light.

The mood was far less jovial in Bel­gium ear­lier in the day.

Dur­ing his 28 hours there, Trump had dis­par­aged long­time NATO al­lies, cast doubt on his com­mit­ment to the mu­tual-de­fense or­ga­ni­za­tion and sent the 29-mem­ber pact into fren­zied emer­gency ses­sion.

Then, in a head-snap­ping pivot at the end, he de­clared the al­liance a “fine-tuned ma­chine” that had ac­ceded to his de­mands to speed up in­creases in mil­i­tary spend­ing to re­lieve pres­sure on the U.S. bud­get.

But there was lit­tle ev­i­dence other lead­ers had bowed to his wishes on that front. Trump claimed mem­ber na­tions had agreed to boost their de­fense bud­gets sig­nif­i­cantly and reaf­firmed — af­ter days of grip­ing that the U.S. was be­ing taken ad­van­tage of by its al­lies — that the U.S. re­mains faith­ful to the ac­cord.

“The United States’ com­mit­ment to NATO re­mains very strong,” Trump told re­porters at a sur­prise news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing an emer­gency ses­sion of NATO mem­bers held to ad­dress his threats.

Nei­ther Trump nor NATO of­fered specifics on what Trump said he had achieved.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron quickly dis- puted Trump’s claim that NATO al­lies had agreed to boost de­fense spend­ing be­yond their ex­ist­ing goal of 2 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct by 2024.

“There is a com­mu­nique that was pub­lished yes­ter­day; it’s very de­tailed,” Macron said. “It con­firms the goal of 2 per­cent by 2024. That’s all.”

Trump be­rated NATO mem­bers in Brus­sels for fail­ing to spend enough of their money on mil­i­tary mat­ters, ac­cus­ing Europe of freeload­ing off the U.S. and rais­ing doubts about whether he would come to their de­fense if at­tacked.

“Yes­ter­day, I let them know that I was ex­tremely un­happy with what was hap­pen­ing,” he said. “They have sub­stan­tially upped their com­mit­ment and now we’re very happy and have a very, very pow­er­ful, very, very strong NATO.

“I can you tell you that NATO now is a re­ally a fine-tuned ma­chine. Peo­ple are pay­ing money that they never paid be­fore. They’re happy to do it. And the United States is be­ing treated much more fairly.”

But sev­eral lead­ers said the gath­er­ing pro­duced no new spend­ing com­mit­ments.

In­stead, they said, mem­bers reaf­firmed the need to stay on track with mil­i­tary­bud­get in­creases that have al­ready been un­der­way.

“I made clear that we know that we have to do more and that we have been do­ing so for quite a while,” said Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel.

NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg cited a “new sense of ur­gency, and all al­lies agreed to re­dou­ble their ef­forts.”

U.S. lead­ers for decades have pushed NATO al­lies to spend more on de­fense to share the col­lec­tive de­fense bur­den more eq­ui­tably.

WILL OLIVER/AP

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