LONDON — President Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from NATO and once called it “obsolete,” surprised many by kicking off a two-day visit to London on Tuesday for the transatlantic alliance’s annual summit by defending it against criticism from France. Mr. Trump called French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion that NATO had suffered “brain death,” “very insulting.”
Mr. Trump said it was a “very, very nasty statement, essentially to 28 countries. Nobody needs NATO more than France.” As he sat alongside Macron in a bilateral meeting, however, Mr. Trump did not continue in his criticism of Macron. Mr. Trump said he believes Macron wants the best for NATO, but also wants it to serve the most vital functions.
When Macron expanded on his belief in NATO’s need to increase its portfolio of interests to include things like terrorism, Mr. Trump said Macron is one of the greatest politicians because he gave one of the greatest “non-answers” he’d ever heard.
The 70-year-old NATO alliance was founded to defend Europe from the Soviet Union. Today, it’s supposed to be a united effort to guarantee the freedom and safety of member countries, but there is plenty of infighting.
“We are making real progress, most importantly on the burden sharing,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said while meeting with Mr. Trump, adding that the U.S. president’s “leadership on defense spending is having a real impact.”
“When I came in, I was angry at NATO, and now I’ve raised $130 billion,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the amount Stoltenberg says European members and Canada will have added to their collective defense budgets by 2020. “And yet you still have many delinquent — you know I call them delinquent when they’re not paid up in full,” Mr. Trump added.
Of NATO’s 29 members, only nine spend at least two percent of their GDP on defense. The United States is reducing its contribution to NATO’s central budget, Reid reports.
Seated alongside Macron, Mr. Trump also weighed in on the protests in Iran, claiming the U.S. doesn’t support the protesters even though his own secretary of state has said otherwise. Asked if the U.S. supports the protesters in Iran, Mr. Trump responded, “I don’t want to comment on that, but the answer is no. But I don’t want to comment on that.” Only a day earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is supporting the protesters in Iran who are revolting against the regime.
But even in London, Mr. Trump could not escape questions about the ongoing impeachment inquiry in Washington. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee is holding its first impeachment hearing on Capitol Hill, intended to weigh in on whether Mr. Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine constitute impeachable offenses.
“This is a witch hunt by the Democrats. It’s a continuation — it’s been going on for three years,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday.
Later on Tuesday, Mr. Trump attended a fundraiser to benefit his presidential campaign and the Republican National Comittee (RNC) where three million dollars was raised, the RNC confirmed to CBS News. He was then scheduled to have bilateral meetings with Macron and the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. In the evening, he was scheduled to attend a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth and a reception at 10 Downing Street organized by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.