In the run-up to yesterday's NATO summit in Brussels, senior US security officials convinced Alliance leaders to reach an agreement after President Donald Trump arrived in Europe.
Trump is known to play a spoiler role in meeting with international allies. The annual G-7 summit in Canada in June ended in disaster when Trump refused to sign the joint communiqué that the members of the group publish each year. In contrast to the G-7 meeting, the summits of NATO are held sporadically. But the two are similar in that participants negotiate and sign a joint statement or agreement. Against this backdrop, observers feared that Trump could blow up the NATO summit by refusing to cooperate with US allies, as he had done in Canada.
Instead of admitting this, members of Trump's own team urged NATO leaders to consent before the summit even began, The New York Times reported Thursday night. Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, was among the senior officials urging an early settlement. At the end of the summit, participants usually highlighted the details of the NATO statements, but the Alliance's Secretary-General, former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, gave the members a strict deadline for this year's event and ordered the delegations to hold their talks for five days to finish before the summit starts. Officials told the Times that the machinations signaled that people near Trump were trying to preserve traditional American alliances, even if the president slammed them in fiery rhetoric.
But Trump's presence at the NATO summit was not undisputed. He accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of being "a Russian prisoner" because she decided to buy more natural gas from Russia. He called the NATO members "delinquents" and railed against them for failing to spend enough of their government budgets on defense. He also called for NATO members to spend 4 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, even though the members agreed only to increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2024. Nonetheless The NATO Summit presented a joint communiqué signed by all participants, including Trump. The language of the Declaration was traditional and committed to "protecting and defending our indivisible security, our freedom and our shared values, including individual freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law".
The document was signed for days before Trump traveled to Helsinki, where he met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump, whose campaign team is being investigated for possible cooperation with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 201
"Russia's aggressive actions, including the threat and use of force to achieve political goals, challenge the Alliance and the Euro-Atlantic Undermining security and rules-based international order, "the statement said.