Trump Sends Pissy Letters to NATO Partners Who Respond with Collective “Meh”

In a sharply worded message to at least some countries in the 29-member alliance that didnโ€™t meet defense spending thresholds โ€” one that followed a general template but included additional language tailored to specific countries โ€” Trump wrote that Americans were tired of funding Europeโ€™s defense and wanted to see other NATO members carrying more of the load.

Though itโ€™s not uncommon for U.S. administrations to push allies on burden-sharing, the letter โ€” its tone and its timing โ€” underscored the precariousness of international parleys in the Trump era. NATO summits are usually choreographed affairs, with shoulder-to-shoulder photo-ops and boilerplate communiques.

The coming meeting, starting July 11 and featuring the leaders of all NATO countries, could be a fiasco thanks to Trumpโ€™s unpredictable and brash behavior.ย  The meeting will feature announcements on some policy breakthroughs: a new NATO program in Iraq to train Iraqi security forces, a joint initiative with the European Union to increase โ€œmilitary mobilityโ€ for allied forces moving around within Europe, the opening of two new command structures โ€” one focused on maritime issues in Norfolk, Virginia, and one on logistics in Germany, and the possible launching of talks with Macedonia to join the alliance.

And then, of course, a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

When asked for comment, the State Department referred all questions to the White House, but a spokesman there did not immediately respond to queries.

Trump roiled the NATO summit last year with his refusal to endorse the allianceโ€™s collective defense clause and the shove he gave Montenegroโ€™s leader at a photo-op. The issue of defense spending could be this yearโ€™s main source of contention.

At the beginning of this year, eight of the 29 members either met or were nearing the 2 percent target: the United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, and Greece.ย  Six others โ€” Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovakia, and Turkey โ€” have unveiled plans to reach the target by 2024. Two, Norway and Denmark, may not meet the 2 percent threshold by 2024 but have plans to significantly boost defense spending.ย  That leaves the majority of NATO allies without plans to meet the spending target, including Germany, Europeโ€™s strongest economy.

โ€œThereโ€™s a lot of good news about the alliance, but thereโ€™s dangers that will all get eclipsed by Trumpโ€™s recriminations on 2 percent,โ€ Alexander Vershbow, a scholar at the Atlantic Council and former deputy secretary-general of NATO, said.

โ€œI donโ€™t think anybody would be dumb enough to predict what would happen,โ€ said one NATO official based in Brussels. โ€œIโ€™m hopeful [the summit] will go smoothly in that heโ€™ll only make a few obnoxious remarks.โ€

For more: Foreign Policy