Trump mars NATO unity message


Trump mars NATO unity message

Thursday, December 05, 2019

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WATFORD, England (AP) — Aiming to play the role of global statesman as the impeachment drama was unfolding in Washington, President Donald Trump instead shattered NATO's professed message of unity at its 70th anniversary celebration in England and put his personal and policy differences with alliance members on stark display.

Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” and French President Emanuel Macron “nasty” during a 52-hour trip that exposed the alliance's divisions on military budgets and relations with Turkey, as well as the US leader's own unconventional ways on the world stage.

At the same time, he found it difficult to leave behind events in Washington, lashing out as House Democrats resumed their push for impeachment over Trump's call for Ukraine to investigate a political rival. He said it was “sad” that Democrats were pushing ahead with the inquiry when “there was no crime whatsoever and they know it”.

Trump, looking to showcase foreign policy wins as he heads into an election year, offered a more optimistic outlook for NATOs future. He took credit for boosting the share of NATO nations that are meeting the alliance's goal of spending two per cent of gross domestic on defence and sought to pressure more countries to increase their military budgets. But he also put a spotlight on his Administration's lingering to-do list: ending a China trade war he instigated, passing the US-Mexico-Canada agreement as well as trade deals with the European Union and Britain.

A day after Trudeau was overheard gossiping about Trump during a reception at Buckingham Palace, Trump called the Canadian leader “two-faced”. In an unguarded conversation, Trudeau told leaders, including Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that “he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top”, an apparent reference to Trump's long and unscheduled question-and-answer session with journalists earlier that day. Trudeau also said, seemingly about his meeting with Trump: “You just watched his team's jaws drop to the floor.”

Trump fired back during yesterday's afternoon meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He suggested that the Canadian's overheard comments were precipitated by Trump's decision to highlight the fact that Canada falls short of NATO goals on defence spending.

“The truth is that I called him out on the fact that he's not paying two per cent and I guess he's not very happy about it,” Trump said. Later, seeming to relish the spat, Trump remarked, “That was funny when I said that guy was two-faced.”

Relations between Trump and Macron, once the American president's closest European ally, deteriorated a day earlier in feisty exchanges on live television.

First, Trump laced into the French president for what he called “very, very nasty” comments by Macron, who had lamented NATO's “brain death” under Trump's leadership of the US. Then, in a later meeting on the sidelines of the summit, Macron rebuked Trump over his insistence that Europe repatriate its citizens who fought with the Islamic State group, as well as his unilateral decision to withdraw American troops from north-east Syria.

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