Poor NATO. After all of the hoops summit organizers reportedly jumped through to accommodate President Donald Trump and his anemic attention span, he definitely was not on his best behavior.
Trump was the party guest whom no one really wants to deal with but has to – because he has more money than anyone else. According to press pool reports, Trump gave NATO allies the cold shoulder. He was the party guest who shows up and berates the hosts for not paying for their fair share of the defense spending cake. To borrow from NFL player Marshawn Lynch, Trump acted as though he was there just so he wouldn’t get fined.
After Trump called NATO obsolete (then proceeded to walk that back), Europe was looking for public support of Article 5, which affirms that NATO members will come to the mutual defense of any member that is under attack. But alas, Trump could not even bring himself to utter explicitly that the U.S. supports Article 5 in his remarks at Brussels, something that every single U.S. president has done since Harry Truman in 1949. If NATO allies were nervous about the United States’ commitment to Europe’s security before, they must be fuming now.
The NATO summit comes as reports surface that British police are withholding intelligence from the United States after leaks to U.S. media about the Manchester bombing investigation, and weeks after Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russians about operations against the Islamic State. For all of Trump’s fire and fury about the United States getting the raw end of the deal from NATO, from an optics standpoint, it is the United States that is looking like the irresponsible partner.
Perhaps in Trump’s eyes, the Saudis threw a much better shindig - spending $68 million to host Trump. Well, really, it was a $110 billion dollar fete, considering the price tag for the historic weapons deal that the United States signed with Saudi Arabia. Trump appeared to be much more friendly and relaxed among Saudi Arabian and other Gulf leaders than with our European allies. Obviously, Trump was bedazzled by the kingdom’s hospitality, but none of the Saudi opulence and money can whitewash Saudi Arabia’s terrible record of fueling Wahhabi terrorism, carrying out record numbers of public beheadings, contributing to famine in Yemen, and withholding many basic rights for Saudi women and girls.
Days after one of the worst terrorist attacks in British history, Trump is visibly more comfortable praising autocrats and extremist governments who help to fuel violence and conflict. That should be a slap in the face to our liberal allies in Europe.
Maybe next time, NATO should serve chocolate cake, give out gold medals, impress Trump with glowing orbs, and throw in a sword dance or two. Oh, and $100 billion.
But in all seriousness, for anyone who cares about America’s global leadership and the future of Europe, Trump’s behavior at the NATO summit has been embarrassing.