LONDON, Dec 3 (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump launched an angry broadside against his European allies ahead of a NATO summit in London on Tuesday, singling out France’s Emmanuel Macron for “very nasty” comments on the alliance and Germany’s shortfall on funding commitments.
Underlining the breadth of strife in a transatlantic bloc hailed by its backers as the most successful military alliance in history, Trump demanded that Europe pay more for defense and also make concessions to U.S. interests on trade.
The attack echoed a similar volley of abuse by Trump ahead of NATO’s July 2018 summit. It will add to the growing doubts over the future of the bloc, described by Macron as “brain dead” in the run-up to a London meeting intended to be a 70th anniversary celebration.
“It’s a tough statement, though, when you make a statement like that, that is a very, very nasty statement to essentially 28, including them, 28 countries,” Trump told reporters as he met the head of NATO in London.
Explicitly linking his complaint that Europe does not pay enough for NATO’s security missions to his staunch “America First” defense of U.S. commercial interests, Trump said it was time for Europe to “shape up” on both fronts.
“It’s not right to be taken advantage of on NATO and also then to be taken advantage of on trade, and that’s what happens. We can’t let that happen,” he said of transatlantic disputes over everything from the aerospace sector to a European “digital tax” on U.S. technology giants.
Dismissing recent signals from Germany that it was ready to do more to match a NATO target of spending two percent of national output on defense, Trump accused it and other nations which spend less than that target of being “delinquent.”
The Trump attack came only hours after divisions opened up elsewhere in the alliance, with Turkey vowing to oppose a NATO plan to defend Baltic countries unless the alliance backs it in recognizing the Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist group.
The YPG’s fighters have long been U.S. allies on the ground against Islamic State in Syria. Turkey considers them an enemy because of links to Kurdish insurgents in southeastern Turkey.
“If our friends at NATO do not recognize as terrorist organizations those we consider terrorist organizations… we will stand against any step that will be taken there,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said before traveling to London.
Erdogan, who has already strained alliance ties with a move to buy Russian air defense systems, said he would meet Polish President Andrzej Duda and leaders of Baltic countries in London. Turkey, France, Germany and Britain are also expected to hold separate meetings around the summit.
In an interview with Reuters, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Ankara that “not everybody sees the threats that they see,” and he urged it, in the name of alliance unity, to stop blocking the Baltics plan.
Queen Elizabeth will host the leaders at Buckingham Palace. But even the British hosts, for generations among the most enthusiastic champions of the trans-Atlantic partnership that NATO represents, are disunited over their project of quitting the EU and distracted by a rancorous election due next week.
“The question is, as we celebrate 70 years, are we waving in celebration or do people think we are drowning?” said a senior European NATO diplomat.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott in London, Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul, Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw; Writing by Mark John Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Graff)
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