Toplines from Trump at the NATO summit:
- Trump accused Germany of being “totally controlled” by Russia in comments about their proposed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel replied that she’d already “experienced the Soviet occupation … it is good that we are independent today.”
- Trump called on NATO members to double their defense spending commitment to 4%. (The U.S. is at 3.5%). Only five nations (if you include Poland at 1.99%) currently meet the 2% target for 2024.
Axios’ Jonathan Swan asked NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg a pair of questions in Brussels.
- Swan 1: Did President Trump assure you he wouldn’t make any concessions in his meeting with Vladimir Putin — for example on Crimea?
- Stoltenberg 1: “Action speaks louder than words. And I’m absolutely confident about the U.S. commitment to European security.” Stoltenberg noted that all allies, including the U.S., signed a declaration today saying they don’t recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. (But he dodged the question about what assurances he sought and received.)
- Swan 2: Has President Trump, in any of his conversations with you, suggested he thinks the United States has too many troops in Europe?
- Stoltenberg 2: “This is the unified position of all allies… The illegal annexation of Crimea is one of the main reasons why NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War.” (Again, separating Trump’s words from the Trump administration’s deeds.)
Swan’s thought bubble: Stoltenberg has a point about Trump’s words versus his administration’s deeds (so far). Trump has not done anything to reduce U.S. military support for NATO and has actually increased military investments in Europe.
- But at the same time Trump has done what no recent U.S. president has done — publicly questioned the value of NATO for the U.S. and in the process made some of America’s closest allies privately question whether they can still rely on American protection.