BRUSSELS (AP) — Declaring victory over freeloading partners, President Donald Trump claimed he had secured significant new concessions from NATO member nations on military spending after days of public haranguing. But even before Air Force One completed its 50-minute flight across the English Channel to the next stop on his European tour, Trump’s claims of accomplishment were challenged by the same allies he claimed had caved.
Trump’s head-spinning 28 hours at the NATO summit in Brussels before visiting Britain reaffirmed a familiar pattern for the salesman-turned-president, who left a chaotic trail behind and whose self-proclaimed accomplishments abroad proved once again to be more show than substance. In the space of eight hours, Trump had moved from doubting the utility of the mutual defense alliance and provoking an extraordinary emergency session of its members to declaring the pact stronger than ever.
It’s a playbook Trump has followed before: Trump claimed world-altering success following last month’s meeting with Kim Jong Un, when he stated that North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat” after their historic summit in Singapore. And in May, he took a victory lap on a supposed trade deal with China, only to see it morph into the beginnings of a trade war.
After days of calling on NATO members to increase their defense spending to at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product, accusing Germany of being “totally controlled” by Russia and pondering “what good is NATO?” Trump offered Thursday that “people have stepped up today like they’ve never stepped up before.”
“I’ve taken over a lot of bad hands and I’m fixing each one of them, and I’m fixing them well,” Trump said during a hastily called press conference Thursday. “What they’re doing is spending at a much faster clip. They’re going up to the 2 percent level.”
But statements from NATO allies suggested there was little cause for Trump’s self-congratulation.
French President Emmanuel Macron denied there were any new spending commitments.
He said: “There is a communique that was published yesterday. It’s very detailed. It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That’s all.”