LONDON – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced Wednesday that the military alliance will hold a leaders summit in London in December, a gathering that following NATO protocol would be expected to include President Donald Trump.
The White House has not confirmed Trump’s attendance.
It falls during NATO’s 70th anniversary year. No exact date for the meeting was given.
Stoltenberg said the leaders will “address the security challenges we face now and in the future, and to ensure that NATO continues to adapt in order to keep its population of almost one billion people safe.”
When Trump attended a NATO summit in July last year he threatened to pull the U.S. out of the organization it helped found if allies did not increase spending on defense. He also accused Germany of being “a captive of Russia” in a series of tense interactions with allies that helped underscore how Trump intends to transform U.S. foreign policy.
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NATO was founded in 1949 to help bring stability, and ensure peace, in a Europe that was reeling from the aftermath of World War II. A centerpiece of NATO is Article 5, a mutual security guarantee among its 29 members that requires each member-nation to come to the aid of their allies in the event of an attack. The provision has been invoked only once: on 9/11 when the U.S. was the target of terrorist attacks.
Trump has consistently railed against NATO allies for what he alleges are their failure to live up to spending commitments which amount to 2 per cent of GDP.
The U.S. spends about 3.5 percent of GDP on defense, the highest NATO share.
“Many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back, where they’re delinquent as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them. So if you go back 10 or 20 years, you’ll just add it all up, it’s massive amounts of money is owed,” he said in July ahead the summit in Brussels, NATO’s headquarters.
There is some justification for Trump’s claim.
At a NATO summit in 2014, the alliance’s members committed to spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense by 2024. At the time, only three countries could claim they were doing that. Stoltenberg said that eight members met this level in 2018: the US.., Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Romania and Poland.
Earlier this year it emerged in a report in The New York Times that Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to withdraw from NATO to senior White House aides because he did not see the point of the alliance that has been viewed as a critical bedrock against Soviet and Russian aggression for decades. A weakened NATO is one of Putin’s major geopolitical goals and fears of its eastward expansion is one of the reasons often cited for Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea. In response to the report, the White House said that while Trump has publicly raised complaints about NATO, he seems satisfied with the way things stand now. It also pointed to statements that he made in July in Brussels in which he said NATO was “very important.”
Trump’s visits to the U.K. have sparked mass protests, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets of London to express disapproval over his personal behavior and divisive rhetoric on immigration, climate change and other geopolitical concerns. When he last visited Britain, protesters unveiled a giant diaper-wearing blimp depicting an orange-colored Trump as a big baby. “Trump baby” flew outside Parliament. It has also shown up at the U.S.-Mexico border and at a G-20 summit in Argentina.
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