WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 08: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs the White House June 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. Trump is traveling to...
Chip Somodevilla

Ahead of NATO summit, Trump again lashes out at American allies

On the eve of the latest NATO summit, European Council President Donald Tusk urged Donald Trump to recognize “who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem.”

The Associated Press report on this added that the former Polish prime minister, who chairs summits of EU leaders and will take part in the NATO meeting, went on to say, “Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have all that many.”

Trump doesn’t appear to be listening.

President Donald Trump criticized NATO on Tuesday in a pair of tweets ahead of his seven-day European trip this week, accusing U.S. allies of exploiting America on defense spending.

“Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting - NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!” the president wrote in a tweet, adding in a later tweet, “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”

I realize fact-checking these little tantrums probably does little good, but the president still doesn’t understand, among other things, that a trade deficit does not mean we’re “losing” money.

As for the idea that NATO members’ defense spending is unfair to American taxpayers, that would only make sense if Trump wanted to decrease defense spending in the United States. He doesn’t.

But factual details aside, the American president went on to speak briefly with reporters on the White House’s South Lawn this morning, where he commented on his upcoming travel plans. “I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin,” Trump said. “Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think?”

I’ll assume that was a rhetorical question.

The broader point, of course, is that Trump is poised to attend an international gathering with many of our closest allies, and he seems preoccupied with whining about them. This morning’s complaints come on the heels of related complaints yesterday, which follow a series of criticisms the president directed at Europe last week.

The New York Times  added yesterday, “This year’s NATO meeting, which begins on Wednesday, comes just days before Mr. Trump’s planned meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland. As he has prepared for Brussels, Mr. Trump has accused Europe of exploiting the United States and hinted that he might play the role of agitator at NATO, sowing disagreement among allies, which would play into Mr. Putin’s hands.”

The Washington Post  reported two days earlier than some U.S. allies fear that Trump “will blow up a key summit focused on Europe’s defense and then offer concessions to NATO’s main adversary” in Moscow.

It’s a familiar dynamic, isn’t it? America’s amateur president, uninterested in the Western alliance the United States fought so hard to build, is alienating and frightening many of his nation’s most reliable friends, to the delight of the autocratic adversary who took steps to put him in power, and whom he’ll soon meet for a summit.

If there’s a silver lining to any of this, it’s that Trump probably won’t be able to fall below the exceedingly low expectations many observers have for his foreign excursion.

Donald Trump, Europe and Foreign Policy

Ahead of NATO summit, Trump again lashes out at American allies