LONDON – President Donald Trump abruptly canceled a news conference at NATO leaders meeting in London on Wednesday after calling Canadian leader Justin Trudeau "two-faced," underscoring some of the political tensions that have arisen this year for LONDON. military alliance when it turns 70.
Trump said he was canceling the press conference "because we've done so many in the last two days," a reference to three lengthy Q&A sessions he held with reporters here. But the moment was unusual and it came later Trudeau was shown in a video with other NATO leaders. seeming to mock the US president. This followed brief public exchanges between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron one day earlier.
Amid disagreement – over funding, how best to combat global terrorism, how to engage with Russia – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg closed the meetings by trying to discuss NATO unity, saying the alliance "It was the most successful in history because we changed as the world changed."
He said NATO will study ways to "further strengthen" its political dimension. The military alliance of the US and European countries, as well as Canada, was formed after World War II as a bulwark against Soviet aggression and to protect against European militant nationalism. Since then, its scope has been expanded to include cyber attacks, border issues, climate security, terrorism and more.
On many issues, the White House and other NATO leaders differ, notably Trump's decision to support Turkey's recent foray into Syria to exterminate Kurdish militants whom Ankara considers terrorists. These same militants were playing a key role in the US-led coalition, fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group.
And by asking questions after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump criticized Trudeau as "two-faced" and suggested that the prime minister was upset that the president had "called" him because Canada was not spending 2% of the money. your GDP. defense spending as required by NATO guidelines. "I don't think he's very happy about that," said Trump.
But his comments followed widely publicized video footage recorded on tuesday night during a NATO reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth II, which revealed world leaders on camera, apparently arguing and mocking Trump, although he was not mentioned directly by name. No one realized they were being heard.
"He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference from the top," Trudeau could be heard saying in the video, an apparent reference to Trump's long unscheduled Q&A session with journalists last Tuesday. Trudeau was seen standing with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Princess Anne of Great Britain – the queen's daughter – was only visible behind Rutte's left shoulder.
Asked about the video, Johnson said it was "complete nonsense".
Trudeau told reporters they were not laughing at Trump, but about the location of the upcoming G7 summit, unveiled this week as the president's retreat at Camp David.
"I have a very good relationship with Trump," he said.
Stoltenberg did his best to design NATO's unit.
He rejected Macron's criticism that the military alliance is suffering from "brain death." He also rejected Trump's complaints that member states are not increasing their NATO military budgets fast enough and insisted that the organization is adapting to modern challenges. Trump called it "obsolete".
"NATO is agile, NATO is active, NATO is adapting," Stoltenberg said before presiding over a meeting of alliance members at a luxury hotel and golf course just outside London.
"As long as we are able to provide substance … then NATO proves once again that we are able to respond to an unstable security scenario, and that is the best way to also provide unity for this alliance," said the Norwegian.
Stoltenberg repeatedly emphasized during his press conference that "NATO is the only place where the US, Europe and Canada meet every day."
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Still, tension threatened to undermine the credibility of the 29-nation alliance.
The meetings also placed Trump as the unlikely supporter of an alliance that he repeatedly belittled and criticized for relying too heavily on US funding.
"There is an assumption among leaders that since NATO has survived these kinds of crises in the past, it will put aside this latest scare," said Jeremy Shapiro, foreign policy expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank. .
"That might be true if France and Turkey were the only problems. However, they are not. The issue is much bigger and proclaims from the US – where an unenthusiastic president is unwilling to make commitments or work to improve. Western defense, "he added. "Macron unjustifiably sees Trump turning his back on Europe and wants NATO member states and the EU to agree on that."
Other NATO leaders and diplomats also struggled to put a brave face on a series of embarrassing encounters, as leaders gathered for discussions on a range of security issues spanning a resurgent Russia, China's growing military and technological prowess, trade and climate policies and the evolving threats of international terrorism.
"If NATO has a motto, that's what Jens (Stoltenberg) says, one for all and one for all," Johnson said in comments opening the meetings, referring to Article 5, NATO's principle that if one member is attacked, everyone will try to defend it.
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Despite divisions, Johnson characterized NATO as a "giant shield of solidarity."
Macron defended his comments, saying Wednesday that they sparked vital discussions. "This allowed us to raise fundamental debates," he said. In particular, "how to build a sustainable peace in Europe". He added that "(NATO) debates should be about things other than budgets and finances," an apparent reference to Trump's persistent complaints about many NATO members who have not met alliance defense spending targets, currently 2%. of GDP. Only nine members are expected to reach this level by the end of the year. The US spends more on NATO than any other country.
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