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Fireworks expected as Trump sparks NATO summit clash

Insights2018-07-11

The NATO alliance is set for a volatile Wednesday and Thursday, with US President Donald Trump preparing for a showdown over spending with other leaders at a two-day summit in Brussels.The fracture between the US and hitherto allies in the West has deepened in recent months with the imposition of tit-for-tat trade tariffs and the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.As the 29 NATO members gather, there is concern in European capitals as to whether the transatlantic link could be further strained – and that the alliance is Trump's next target.Those concerns were exacerbated when the US president scheduled a June 16 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, given the founding purpose of the alliance was deterrence of the Soviet Union.NATO backgroundWhat is NATO?The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a grouping of 29 North American and European countries, with the stated purpose of guaranteeing "the freedom and security of its members through political and military means."Why was it founded?It was founded in 1949 as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, has in recent years sent battalions to the Baltics and Poland, and is preparing to add new members.What is Article 5?The standout feature of the alliance is collective defense – the premise that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all – enshrined in Article 5 of its founding treaty.Low expectationsTrump has made no secret of his dislike of an alliance he described as "obsolete" during his presidential election campaign, and suggested he may not come to the defense of fellow members under Article 5.US ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters on Tuesday that Trump would recommit to Article 5, however.US President Donald Trump (R) and US First Lady Melania Trump disembark from Air Force One as they arrive at Melsbroek Air Base in Haachtsesteenweg on July 10, 2018 ahead of a two-day NATO summit."Expectations for the Brussels summit could hardly be lower – indeed, NATO leaders will probably be relieved if it is anything other than a disaster," according to Reuters global affairs columnist Peter Apps.At the G7 meeting in Canada in June, Trump set precedent for dividing a normally, publically, united block by refusing to sign up to the final communique.Split on spendingTrump laid the groundwork for a sparky meeting last week by sending letters to leaders of several NATO countries urging them to spend more on defense. On Monday, he tweeted that the US is spending more than any other country on NATO, adding "this is not fair, nor is it acceptable."NATO countries are bound to spend two percent of their GDP on defense by 2024 under an agreement struck in 2014.Twitter ScreenshotNATO diplomats told Reuters that only two-thirds of the 28 allies, excluding the US, have a realistic plan to hit that level by then. The US spent 3.57 percent of GDP on defense in 2017.On Tuesday, Trump followed up with a tweet accusing allies of being "delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made" and questioning whether they would "reimburse the US."Germany is Trump's primary target. Berlin invested 1.24 percent of its GDP in 2017 and is estimated to do the same in 2018. Only seven European NATO countries will meet the two percent target in 2018, figures released on Tuesday showed.Cumulative expenditure by Europe and Canada has risen by almost 90 billion US dollars since 2015, however, and on Tuesday European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted directly at Trump to urge him to "appreciate" his allies."Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have that many," Tusk said.According to a joint declaration prepared in advance of the summit, seen by AFP, NATO members will make an "unwavering commitment to all aspects of the defense investment pledge agreed at the 2014 Wales Summit" which includes the two percent target. It adds that they will also "submit credible national plans on its implementation."What else is on the agenda?The summit, which will be hosted by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, is expected to touch on various issues of international concern, including terrorism, the Iran deal and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a news conference in Brussels, 10 July, 2018.Trump has also indicated that he may want to put non-NATO issues on the agenda, including the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Germany and Russia and the US trade dispute with the EU."On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of $151 Million with the U.S., with big Trade Barriers on U.S. goods. NO!” Trump tweeted after complaining about disparities in defense spending.Twitter ScreenshotNATO is also set to expand again, inviting Macedonia to start accession talks despite Russian warnings against enlargement of the bloc deeper into the Balkans.Pressure from Trump has already had an impact. On Tuesday, the British government announced plans to send around 440 more troops to Afghanistan after a request from the US president for reinforcements. The extra troops will be taking part in a NATO-led training mission.The two-day summit at the new NATO headquarters in Brussels brings together more than 40 heads of government including the 29 allies and non-member partners from Finland to Afghanistan.(CGTN)

The NATO alliance is set for a volatile Wednesday and Thursday, with US President Donald Trump preparing for a showdown over spending with other leaders at a two-day summit in Brussels.

The fracture between the US and hitherto allies in the West has deepened in recent months with the imposition of tit-for-tat trade tariffs and the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

As the 29 NATO members gather, there is concern in European capitals as to whether the transatlantic link could be further strained – and that the alliance is Trump's next target.

Those concerns were exacerbated when the US president scheduled a June 16 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, given the founding purpose of the alliance was deterrence of the Soviet Union.

NATO background

What is NATO?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a grouping of 29 North American and European countries, with the stated purpose of guaranteeing "the freedom and security of its members through political and military means."

Why was it founded?It was founded in 1949 as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, has in recent years sent battalions to the Baltics and Poland, and is preparing to add new members.What is Article 5?The standout feature of the alliance is collective defense – the premise that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all – enshrined in Article 5 of its founding treaty.

Low expectations

Trump has made no secret of his dislike of an alliance he described as "obsolete" during his presidential election campaign, and suggested he may not come to the defense of fellow members under Article 5.

US ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters on Tuesday that Trump would recommit to Article 5, however.

US President Donald Trump (R) and US First Lady Melania Trump disembark from Air Force One as they arrive at Melsbroek Air Base in Haachtsesteenweg on July 10, 2018 ahead of a two-day NATO summit.

"Expectations for the Brussels summit could hardly be lower – indeed, NATO leaders will probably be relieved if it is anything other than a disaster," according to Reuters global affairs columnist Peter Apps.

At the G7 meeting in Canada in June, Trump set precedent for dividing a normally, publically, united block by refusing to sign up to the final communique.

Split on spending

Trump laid the groundwork for a sparky meeting last week by sending letters to leaders of several NATO countries urging them to spend more on defense. On Monday, he tweeted that the US is spending more than any other country on NATO, adding "this is not fair, nor is it acceptable."

NATO countries are bound to spend two percent of their GDP on defense by 2024 under an agreement struck in 2014.

Twitter Screenshot

NATO diplomats told Reuters that only two-thirds of the 28 allies, excluding the US, have a realistic plan to hit that level by then. The US spent 3.57 percent of GDP on defense in 2017.

On Tuesday, Trump followed up with a tweet accusing allies of being "delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made" and questioning whether they would "reimburse the US."

Germany is Trump's primary target. Berlin invested 1.24 percent of its GDP in 2017 and is estimated to do the same in 2018. Only seven European NATO countries will meet the two percent target in 2018, figures released on Tuesday showed.

Cumulative expenditure by Europe and Canada has risen by almost 90 billion US dollars since 2015, however, and on Tuesday European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted directly at Trump to urge him to "appreciate" his allies.

"Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have that many," Tusk said.

According to a joint declaration prepared in advance of the summit, seen by AFP, NATO members will make an "unwavering commitment to all aspects of the defense investment pledge agreed at the 2014 Wales Summit" which includes the two percent target. It adds that they will also "submit credible national plans on its implementation."

What else is on the agenda?

The summit, which will be hosted by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, is expected to touch on various issues of international concern, including terrorism, the Iran deal and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a news conference in Brussels, 10 July, 2018.

Trump has also indicated that he may want to put non-NATO issues on the agenda, including the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Germany and Russia and the US trade dispute with the EU.

"On top of this the European Union has a Trade Surplus of $151 Million with the U.S., with big Trade Barriers on U.S. goods. NO!” Trump tweeted after complaining about disparities in defense spending.

Twitter Screenshot

NATO is also set to expand again, inviting Macedonia to start accession talks despite Russian warnings against enlargement of the bloc deeper into the Balkans.

Pressure from Trump has already had an impact. On Tuesday, the British government announced plans to send around 440 more troops to Afghanistan after a request from the US president for reinforcements. The extra troops will be taking part in a NATO-led training mission.

The two-day summit at the new NATO headquarters in Brussels brings together more than 40 heads of government including the 29 allies and non-member partners from Finland to Afghanistan.

(CGTN)

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