German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to U.S. President Donald Trump during the second day of the G7 meeting in Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018.
Jesco Denzel/Bundesregierung/Handout via Reuters

Trump takes aim at American allies (again) ahead of G-20 summit

As the G-20 summit gets underway in Japan today, Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with leaders from Germany, India, and Japan. Take a wild guess which countries the American president chastised yesterday before landing in Osaka.

President Trump, arriving in Japan on Thursday, opened his latest foreign trip much as he did his last one, lashing out at America’s allies, including his hosts, just before sitting down with them to talk through differences on issues like security and trade.

In the hours before and after leaving for an international summit meeting, Mr. Trump assailed Japan, Germany and India. He complained that under existing treaty provisions, if the United States were attacked, Japan would only “watch it on a Sony television.” He called Germany a security freeloader and chastised India for raising tariffs on American goods.

Just once I’d like to hear Trump speak of American allies with the respect and deference he extends to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

The Republican is also expected to have separate meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the international gathering, though both were spared Trump criticisms yesterday.

But what was especially jarring about the American president’s rhetoric wasn’t just his choice of targets; it was also how little sense his criticisms made.

Trump called into Fox Business yesterday for a deeply strange interview in which he said, for example, that according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, “if it wasn’t for President Trump we wouldn’t even have NATO.” That’s ridiculously untrue and Stoltenberg never said any such thing.

Soon after, Trump insisted that our European allies treat us “worse than China,” adding, “[Y]ou know, look, I come from Europe…. European nations were set up in order to take advantage of the United States.”

Trump comes from New York, and the idea that European nations were set up in order to take advantage of the United States is absurd.

As for his G-20 hosts, the Republican went on to argue, “We have a treaty with Japan. If Japan is attacked, we will fight World War III. We will go in and we will protect them and we will fight with our lives and with our treasure. We will fight at all costs, right? But if we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us at all. They can watch it on a Sony television, the attack.”

Putting aside the fact that Trump’s rhetoric sounds a bit like it was lifted from a 1980s action movie, the New York Times explained the substantive problem with the American president’s posture: “The United States signed the treaty with Japan in 1951 after forcing a new constitution on the country that disavows a full military of its own beyond self-defense forces. Through the treaty, the United States secured the right to station forces in Japan, giving it an important base of operations in the Pacific to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In exchange, the United States promised to defend Japan if it were attacked.”

Whether Trump understands any of these relevant details is unclear.

It’s bound to be quite a summit.