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Trump Leaves NATO Summit After Video Flap

Posted by hkarner - 6. Dezember 2019

Date: 05‑12‑2019

Source: The Wall Street Journal

U.S. president calls Canada’s Justin Trudeau ‘two‑faced’

LONDON—President Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two‑faced” after a video emerged of a group of NATO leaders discussing the U.S. leader without him present, rattling a summit to mark the 70th anniversary of the alliance.

The bickering among Mr. Trump and U.S. allies has become a common motif of international summits as NATO members have grown increasingly divided on a host of issues, including Mr. Trump’s demand that allies lift their military spending to meet NATO’s recommendation of 2% of GDP. That is a longstanding source of tension between Washington and European capitals, many of which argue that a single figure doesn’t capture the extent of their contributions to the alliance.

The video, which was taken at a reception at Buckingham Palace Tuesday evening, captures U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking President Emmanuel Macron of France why he was late to the reception. Mr. Macron had come from a meeting with Mr. Trump who earlier in the day had held impromptu news conferences on the margins of his bilateral meetings with the Canadian and French leaders.

Mr. Trudeau chimed in, saying: “He was late because he takes a 40‑minute press conference.”

“You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” Mr. Trudeau added, according to the video of the conversation, which included Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Princess Anne, a member of the British royal family.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump fielded a question about the video during his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Well, he’s two‑faced,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Trudeau. He then added, “Honestly with Trudeau he’s a nice guy,” before suggesting Canada was upset that he had pushed the country to increase military spending.

After Mr. Trump’s comment, Mr. Trudeau said the videotaped conversation focused on what he described as an unscheduled press conference Mr. Trump held before the Canadian leader’s meeting with Mr. Trump. “It was certainly notable,” Mr. Trudeau said.

As for his remark about jaws dropping, Mr. Trudeau said he was referring to Mr. Trump’s surprise announcement that the next Group of Seven leaders’ summit would be held at Camp David, the U.S. presidential retreat.

“I think every different leader has teams that every now and then have their jaws drop at unscheduled surprises,” he said.

Mr. Macron declined to comment on the video. When Mr. Johnson was asked Wednesday about the meeting in Buckingham Palace and whether he takes Mr. Trump seriously, he responded: “That’s complete nonsense, and I don’t know where that’s come from.”

Mr. Trump’s aides had planned to use the trip to showcase him on the world stage, busily working despite the impeachment proceeding back home. He praised members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for increasing burden sharing and was warmly greeted by NATO’s leader.

But the summit quickly devolved as Mr. Trump clashed openly with Mr. Macron and needled Mr. Trudeau in bilateral meetings. Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that he planned to leave the summit without holding a planned news conference because he had already spoken a lot to reporters, adding, “Safe travels to all!” He has since departed.

In the tweet, Mr. Trump said that before leaving he would continue with planned meetings with Denmark and Italy, as well as one with NATO members about meeting the goal of spending 2% of gross domestic product on military spending.

Mr. Trump often concludes his foreign trips with a wide‑ranging press conference, holding forth on international and domestic issues. But he has also at times exited foreign trips abruptly, as he did when he ended a meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un ahead of schedule earlier this year.

Tensions began to simmer on Tuesday as Messrs. Trump and Macron clashed on issues such as trade and the West’s military campaign to stamp out Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

At one point, a reporter asked Mr. Trump whether France should do more to take Islamic State fighters captured in the region, and Mr. Trump passed the question to the French leader. Mr. Macron answered that foreign fighters from Europe constituted a fraction of Islamic State’s forces, adding that the West’s fight against the terror group in Syria, Iraq and beyond was “not yet done.”

“That is why he is a great politician, because that was one of the greatest nonanswers I’ve ever heard, and that’s OK,” Mr. Trump quipped.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump had complained to advisers that he didn’t trust Mr. Macron and suggested that the French president was a “leaker,” according to two administration officials. An aide to Mr. Macron said there was no basis for such a suggestion.

Mr. Trump had celebrated the rise of Mr. Johnson, whose pro‑Brexit stance appeared to offer a natural match to Mr. Trump’s “America First” outlook. Mr. Trump had lauded the potential of a bilateral trade deal with the U.K. and had sought to recruit Mr. Johnson as an ally in his crackdown on Iran, as well as on the Chinese tech company Huawei Technologies Co.

However, Mr. Johnson is nervous about being seen with the U.S. president. With an election taking place next week in the U.K., where Mr. Trump is unpopular, officials have tried to limit photo opportunities between the two men. When Mr. Trump visited Downing Street on Tuesday evening, Mr. Johnson didn’t even greet him at the door.

Less than five months into Mr. Johnson’s tenure, the future of Brexit remains uncertain, and Mr. Trump is showing little patience. In an October radio interview with Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party, the American president said that a trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K. would be impossible after Brexit under withdrawal terms supported by Mr. Johnson and the European Union.

“We want to do trade with the U.K., and they want to do trade with us. And to be honest with you, this deal, under certain aspects of the deal, you can’t do it. You can’t do it. You can’t trade. We can’t make a trade deal with the U.K.,” Mr. Trump said, without specifying which aspects of the agreement he was referring to.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he and Mr. Johnson discussed numerous subjects including NATO and trade on Tuesday at the prime minister’s residence. A Johnson spokesman said the leaders “reflected on the importance” of NATO and welcomed the recent increases in military spending by member states.

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