Trump Continues To Help Putin Drive A Wedge Through The Heart Of NATO

President Trump reportedly trashed the NATO alliance in conversations at the G-7 Summit, something that should make Russian President Vladimir Putin quite happy.

Reports are emerging that President Trump spoke negatively about the NATO alliance during the G-7 Summit earlier this month:

President Trump earlier this month reportedly told the leaders of the Group of Seven member countries that NATO was “as bad as NAFTA,” according to Axios.

At the G-7 summit in Canada, Trump reportedly said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was “too costly for the U.S” and compared it to the North American Free Trade Agreement that he has often targeted as a bad deal.

“It will be an interesting summit. NATO is as bad as NAFTA. It’s much too costly for the U.S.,” Trump said during the meeting with leaders, according to an official who read notes transcribed from the closed-door meeting to Axios.

Trump was reportedly making a reference to the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels in July.

The president made the comment after reportedly telling G-7 leaders that Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, be a part of Russia because people there speak Russian.

The report highlights what appears to be a growing rift between Trump and the United States’ Western allies.

More from the Axios report itself:

What we’re hearing: In one extraordinary riff during his meeting with the G7 heads of state earlier this month in Quebec, Trump told the other leaders: “NATO is as bad as NAFTA.” An official read this quote to me from notes transcribed from the private meeting.

Behind the scenes: Trump made the comment after telling the G7 leaders that Crimea probably should belong to Russia because everyone there speaks Russian, the source added. Trump then went on his usual riff about Germany not paying its fair share of defense spending, said the Europeans weren’t paying enough and that the U.S. is being ripped off.
  • Then Trump said of the NATO Summit on July 11-12 in Brussels: “It will be an interesting summit. NATO is as bad as NAFTA. It’s much too costly for the U.S.”

Why this matters: NATO member states are worried about Russian aggression and they want an unambiguous sign that America has their back. By linking NATO to NAFTA — a trade deal that Trump considers an unmitigated disaster for America — Trump reinforced some of the Europeans’ worst fears that he’ll take a purely transactional approach to next month’s summit.

  • Officials from four NATO member countries have told me they’re worried Trump undercut the shared values and commitments of the NATO alliance by spending most of his time bashing NATO members for not “paying enough” and meeting their defense spending commitments.
  • Trump is broadly correct about the defense spending. Many NATO members have been shirking their responsibilities and are nowhere near their promise to spend 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product on defense.
  • But, as one senior European official put it to me: Trump could do a victory lap of sorts at next month’s summit, instead of bashing NATO members (which would please Putin.)
  • Trump, the official said, could point out that NATO members have been increasing their defense spending, and say that it’s only because of his pressure. The official said he hoped — but wasn’t confident — Trump would take this gentler, more diplomatic route.

When Axios shared this reporting with the White House, officials did not attempt to deny these specific comments that were relayed from notes from the G7 heads of state meeting. But NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis said: “The president engaged in a constructive dialogue with his counterparts at G7. Any allegations otherwise are simply wrong.”

This report came out just hours before it was announced that President Trump would be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16th, which just happens to fall after he attends this year’s NATO meeting in Brussels and visits with British Prime Minister Theresa May. On some level, I suppose, it’s fortunate that Trump will be meeting with our NATO allies before meeting with Putin. After all, it’s fairly well known in Washington that Trump is the kind of person who is most influenced by the person or persons he spoke to most recently about a given topic. Taking that into account, one could hope that the leaders of the NATO members, particularly Prime Minister May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, can influence the President’s thinking before he walks into his meeting in Finland with the Russian President. Of course, that assumes that Trump doesn’t use the meeting as a further opportunity to wreck our relationships with some of our closest allies.

This report also comes in the wake of more than a year of comments and actions from Trump since he became President, as well as when he was a candidate, that raise serious doubts about his commitment to the NATO alliance and emphasizes the damage that he has done to our relationships with our European allies. When the President visited Europe last year, for example, he left in his wake with many of our closest allies wondering just how committed the President was to the alliance and to its collective defense principles notwithstanding later assurances regarding that commitment on his part.

Outside of that, Trump has engaged in a number of other policies that have significantly soured the relationship between the United States and its allies, particularly our NATO allies. Last month, for example, the President revoked the exemption from the steel and aluminum tariffs that had been announced back in March that applied to American allies in Europe as well as Canada and Mexico. In doing so, Trump claimed that he was taking this action for “national security” reasons. Objectively speaking, of course, the idea that these allies are a national security threat to the United States, or that we could not rely on them as a source for aluminum and steel in the event of a national emergency or military threat is absurd. Needless to say, this didn’t go over very well with our allies in Europe and elsewhere. Canada’s Foreign Minister called the new tariffs “absurd,” for example, and European Union officials announced retaliatory tariffs against American goods. Things got even more bizarre in this regard as Trump exchanged harsh words with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prior to the G-7 Summit. Once he was at the summit, Trump essentially did everything he could to alienate America’s closest allies, thereby seemingly achieving a goal that Russia and, before it, the Soviet Union had only dreamed of, driving a wedge between the United States and its allies. After the Singapore Photo Op Summit, Trump continued his tirade against Trudeau, while polling revealed that Canadian public opinion about the United States was suffering as a result of American actions and the President’s rhetoric. Finally, it was reported at the same time that the President was considering what would effectively be a ban on German-built luxury automobiles, a threat that he continues to make.

None of this bodes well for the upcoming NATO summit meeting in Brussels, which will take place in just over two weeks. Given that it will take place in the wake of the aforementioned G-7 summit and just prior to Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom, which is likely to be rocky given the fact that he is wildly unpopular there, there’s plenty of reason to believe that the meeting in Brussels will not go well. If that happens, then President Putin will likely show up in Helsinki in a very good mood.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Steve Huth says:

    At this point you have to wonder, if Trump *isn’t* a Russian Manchurian candidate that Putin owns, what else could he be? This isn’t even incompetence. It’s a wrecking ball to every institution that has held Russia and, before that, the Soviet Union, in check.

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  2. MBunge says:

    Newsflash: According to the World Bank, Russia has a smaller GDP than either Canada or Brazil. Not smaller than both combined. Canada’s GDP is bigger than Russia’s. Brazil’s GDP is bigger than Russia’s. Germany’s GDP is nearly three times bigger than Russia’s. Spain’s GDP is only about $50 billion smaller than Russia’s. SPAIN! Finland, Sweden, and Norway combined have roughly as large a collective GDP as Russia.

    https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?view=map

    What exactly are we supposed to be worried about?

    Mike

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  3. Kathy says:

    @Steve Huth:

    At this point you have to wonder, if Trump *isn’t* a Russian Manchurian candidate that Putin owns, what else could he be?

    I wonder if the Cheeto’s spawn did manage to set up that back channel to Putin after all.

    I wonder, too, at the Republican politicians who are enabling Dennison, whether they approve of what he’s doing to make the world hostile to America.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:
    Tell me…what was the GDP of the guys that took down the Trade Towers?
    What makes you think GDP is indicative of anything, you dolt?
    Russia helped, along with Comey (and dupes like you), elect the buffoon in the White House who is incrementally destroying the Republic.
    (Yes…I understand that you’ll feel better with an autocrat who tells you what to do and think and feel, and you don’t think he’s destroying the country.)

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  5. Gustopher says:

    Is Trump compromised by the Russians, or just a useful idiot? Who can tell?

    Hopefully Mueller can.

  6. Kathy says:

    Has anyone informed Dennison that military alliances are not a matter of money?

  7. teve tory says:

    NATO diminishes Russia’s power, so Dennison probly wants the US to quit it.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    Certainly Putin has got his money’s worth…I’m sure that makes him happy…

  9. PJ says:

    @Kathy:

    Has anyone informed Dennison that military alliances are not a matter of money?

    Protection money.

    Sums extracted from an entity by a criminal, gang leader, or government official to ‘protect’ the entity from other criminals, trouble makers, or regulatory agencies. Its demand is accompanied by an express or implied threat that its non-payment will bring great harm to the non-payer.

  10. Kathy says:

    There’s a charitable, non-treasonous explanation for Dennison’s behavior towards NATO. But it makes him look bad, too.

    Between 1945 and today, there has been no war against Russia or the USSR before it. Therefore it’s not like you need NATO, as it’s never been used, right? Therefore any money spent on it is wasted.

    So the charitable explanation is that Dennison is an effing moron and an ignoramus, who feels he can play with fire because the house has never burned down before.

    The USSR was too beat up and drained of manpower and resources at the end of WWII. It couldn’t have taken on Western Europe militarily then. Besides, it had won an empire of client states in Eastern Europe. But absent a defensive alliance like NATO, they could easily have gobbled up Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Especially if they threatened to use nukes.

    Never mind there were wars with Soviet proxies in Korea and Vietnam, and between US and Soviet proxies in the Middle East. The Cold War stayed largely cold because of NATO and other alliances, and the US nuclear umbrella, not through the goodwill of the Soviets.

  11. Ben Wolf says:

    Trying to remember when Doug the anti-establishmentarian was replaced by Doug the TDS victim.

    You’re supposed to be a libertarian, not a defender of a militarist organization that exists to counter the threat created by its existence.

    But then you’ve also gone from a Ron Paul guy to wringing your hands about Tim Kaine.

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  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    not a defender of a militarist organization that exists to counter the threat created by its existence.

    Head? Meet desk.

  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    Trump is broadly correct about the defense spending. Many NATO members have been shirking their responsibilities and are nowhere near their promise to spend 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product on defense.

    Another sad thing about Trump is that even when he occasionally is the blind squirrel who found a nut, he’s so toxic that all he accomplishes is poisoning the well on the issue so that no one will be able to bring it up again in the future without being immediately dismissed as a Trumpist.

  14. Hal_10000 says:

    @Kathy:

    That’s my opinion, too: Europe has been at peace so long that he (and other NATO skeptics) have forgotten the horror that NATO is protecting us from. I would liken it to his “skepticism” on vaccines, another issue where something has been so successful in preventing suffering that we’ve become more worried about the preventative than what it’s preventing.

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  15. Kathy says:

    @Hal_10000:

    That’s my opinion, too: Europe has been at peace so long that he (and other NATO skeptics) have forgotten the horror that NATO is protecting us from.

    I wonder whether Europeans are more conscious of such horror, as they live in countries that were ravaged by WWII.

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Ben Wolf is an unreconstructed leftists of the sort I grew up with in Seattle. When he says stuff like that I just shakes my head and says “that’s just Ben bein’ Ben.”

    Sort of like we should do with Bunge more often.

  17. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: This is perhaps the most singularly irrelevant response to an OTB post you’ve ever made. Literally, the reddest of red herrings.

    And man, that is saying something.

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  18. al Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    What exactly are we supposed to be worried about?
    Mike

    Exactly, what else can Trump but throw long-time democratic allies under the bus and unilaterally break treaties and accords with our (formerly trusted) allies in Western Europe and in Asia ? He had to do it.

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I have questioned the continued existence of NATO in the past (and mostly it’s expansion), and found more than a little objection with some of the things it has been proposed to be put to use for since the passing of the USSR, but I never blamed it for the Berlin Blockade.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    Trump is also threatening to withdraw from the WTO, which will totally blow up the world’s trading system.

  21. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist: And during their White House meeting, he told Macron if France pulled out of the EU, America would offer France a bilateral trade deal with better terms than we have with the EU as a whole.

    So Trump’s not just helping Putin drive a wedge into NATO, he’s trying to do the same to the EU.