President Donald Trump up-ends meeting with bizarre claims, threats and taunts

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump isn’t one to fit in and this year’s NATO summit in Brussels is no exception.

Even before the president left Washington for the meeting, he was already setting a combative tone for the two-day conference, publicly lambasting the other 28 members of the intergovernmental military alliance and accusing them of freeloading off the US when it comes to defence spending.

On one of his famous Twitter tirades, Mr Trump said the NATO alliance was “very unfair” towards the US, that other members were “delinquent for many years in payments”, and demanded that NATO allies needed to “reimburse” the US for defence costs.

And to further escalate tensions before the summit even officially begun, Mr Trump seemed to distance himself from his Western allies and cosy up to the most controversial NATO member.

As the world’s most powerful leaders gathered en masse, displaying unity, when they arrived to watch the NATO opening ceremony, President Trump hung back with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The pair strolled slowly and chatted steps behind the rest of their NATO counterparts, which included British prime minister Theresa May, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and the chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel.

The president’s choice to buddy up to Mr Erdogan at the annual summit raised eyebrows as the Turkish president is widely regarded as the most autocratic world leader of all NATO members.

Mr Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey as prime minister and then as president for 15 years, holds the title of the most divisive leader in recent Turkish history. And after being sworn in for another term as president just days ago, he bought with him a new political system that grants himself, as the country’s leader, vast powers.

Western allies and rights group argue that this is increasing authoritarianism and is an obvious push toward one-man rule. But President Trump appeared to gravitate towards the divisive leader.

And this was all before the working part of the summit kicked off. Mr Trump continued to rock the boat for the entire two-day affair.


Despite being under fire for his own warm embrace of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump’s first port of call when he touched down in Brussels was to blast Germany’s own ties to Russia, alleging that a natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Angela Merkel’s government “totally controlled” and “captive” to Russia.

He then continued the attack on the second day of the summit, complaining that “Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia”.

“Not acceptable!” he railed before arriving late at NATO headquarters for morning meetings with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia.

Mr Trump also questioned the necessity of the alliance, which has formed a barricade against Soviet aggression, tweeting after a day of contentious meetings: “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?”

Ms Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, shot back that she had “experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union, and I’m very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany and can thus say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions and that’s very good.”


Hot on the heels of berating Germany about Russia,Mr Trump said Mr Putin is neither friend nor foe, but a “competitor”. He said Mr Putin is representing the best interests of the Russian people as he represents those of Americans.

Speaking during an unscheduled press conference at the NATO summit about his meeting with the Russian leader in Helsinki next Monday, Mr Trump said it will likely be “just a loose meeting,” but said significant progress could be made in the relationship.

However, Mr Trump’s meeting with Mr Putin has been met by scepticism from NATO allies concerned that he will not be sufficiently tough with the leader.

The president insists he will raise Russian meddling in Western elections with Mr Putin, but he also said his meeting with the Russian leader “may be the easiest” part of his European tour before he left Washington.


The president closed out his chaotic two-day visit to NATO by declaring victory and boasting that he threatened allies and it worked.

Mr Trump dropped a bombshell when he demanded members significantly increase defence spending — doubling the current defence spending of 2 per cent of gross domestic product to 4 per cent.

He had spent a lot of his time in Brussels focused on money, berating members of the military alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defence, raising doubts about whether he would come to members’ defence if they were attacked, and threatening to leave the pact if allies didn’t immediately up their spending.

“Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening,” Mr Trump said in a news conference following meetings.

“They have substantially upped their commitment and now we’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO,” he said.

Mr Trump did not specify which countries had committed to what, and it remained unclear whether any had changed their plans — especially after French President Emmanuel Macron quickly disputed the US president’s claim that NATO allies have agreed to boost defence spending beyond 2 per cent. He said the allies had confirmed their intention to meet the goal of 2 per cent by 2024 and no more.

“President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO,” Mr Macron said.

However, Mr Trump stuck to his guns, telling a press conference: “The US commitment to NATO remains very strong, mainly because (of) the additional money they’ve committed.”

NATO countries in 2014 committed to move toward spending 2 per cent of their gross domestic products on defence within 10 years. NATO has estimated that only 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.


Following the United States’ withdrawal from a landmark deal that provided sanctions relief for Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, Mr Trump forecast an unspecified “escalation” between the United States and Iran at the NATO summit.

His remarks came as his administration pressed European nations at the two-day conference in Brussels to cut off all funding that Iran may use to instigate instability in the Middle East and beyond.

Mr Trump asserted that Iran was now treating the US with more respect, although there’s no evidence to support that, and predicted Tehran will seek negotiations as reimposed sanctions bite.

“I would say there might be an escalation between us and the Iranians,” Mr Trump said at a news conference in Brussels.

“They’re treating us with much more respect right now than they did in the past and I know they’re having a lot of problems and their economy is collapsing. But I will tell you this, at a certain point, they’re going to call me and they’re going to say ‘Let’s make a deal,’ and we’ll make a deal.’ But they’re feeling a lot of pain right now.”

Washington’s withdrawl from the Iran nuclear deal and subsuquent reinstatement of economic penalties has worsened Iran’s already-hobbled economy.

After the NATO summit ended Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with European officials to make the case for clamping down on Iranian “terrorism and proxy wars”. “We ask our allies and partners to join our economic pressure campaign against Iran’s regime,” Mr Pompeo said in a tweet before the talks.

“We must cut off all funding the regime uses to fund terrorism and proxy wars. There’s no telling when Iran may try to foment terrorism, violence & instability in one of our countries next.”


If the NATO summit already hadn’t been weird enough, Mr Trump also used it to again proclaim himself to be a “very stable genius”.

He first made the bizarre declaration in January while defending himself against allegations he was unfit to be US president after publication of the book, Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House.

After the damning expose of his early days in office, he went on to claim his two greatest assets were “mental stability and being, like, really smart”.

And during a press conference in Brussels following the summit, he doubled down on that claim. Mr Trump was asked whether he would go on to change his mind and scrap the funding agreement in a tweet.

“No, that’s other people that do that,” he replied.

“I’m very consistent. I’m a very stable genius.”

At least his stance on his intelligence appears to be consistent.

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