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NATO leaders stress unity but Trump-Trudeau spat mars summit – POLITICO


U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) U.S. President Donald Trump (C) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) attend the NATO summit at the Grove Hotel on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Stoltenberg puts accent on collective defense despite public disputes.

WATFORD, England — NATO lives! But that doesn’t mean everything’s rosy.

After a brief leaders’ meeting to mark the alliance’s 70th anniversary, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that NATO remains unified in its commitment to collective defense, despite an array of fractious disagreements and recent hot rhetoric, including French President Emmanuel Macron’s allegation of strategic “brain death.”

Tensions within the alliance were on show after a quartet of leaders — Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte — were caught on video at a Buckingham Palace reception on Tuesday evening apparently having a laugh about Donald Trump’s impromptu news conferences and disregard for the day’s scheduling.

In response, the U.S. president branded Trudeau “two-faced,” claiming that the Canadian prime minister was upset at U.S. demands for his government to up its defense budget. “I called him out on that, and I’m sure he wasn’t happy about it, but that’s the way it is,” said Trump, who also canceled his post-summit press conference.

On the policy front, Stoltenberg said that the leaders agreed that he would lead a new “reflection process … to further strengthen the political dimension of NATO.”

Speaking at a news conference at the summit site in Watford, England, he said leaders had also agreed to update a defense plan for Poland and the Baltic countries that had been held up by Turkish opposition, and that they had agreed to make a new priority of looking beyond the North Atlantic at the implications of China’s rising power.

Deep, substantive disagreements persist — but those have been pushed off to the months and years ahead, with the next leaders’ conclave not planned until 2021.

“All leaders were very clear,” Stoltenberg said. “We stand together, all for one and one for all.”

Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, also chalked up the many disagreements and disputes to the very nature of an alliance of democracies, which is soon to induct its 30th member: North Macedonia.

“Disagreements will always attract more attention than when we agree,” Stoltenberg said.

“That’s how our open democratic societies work,” he said. “So I won’t complain about that.”

“We are 29 different countries from both sides of the Atlantic,” he said, noting different histories, traditions and political parties in power, and other factors that set NATO countries apart.

Nearly all of the issues discussed by leaders in Watford had been taken up previously in other formats, including a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels late last month. But Stoltenberg said leaders had confirmed those previous decisions, including a readiness plan by which NATO is now capable of supplying 30 combat ships, 30 land battalions and 30 air squadrons within 30 days, in defense of any ally.

Stoltenberg did not provide details of the new “reflection process,” which some allies had suggested could take the form of an expert panel led by the secretary-general. That left some uncertainty about whether the plan would be regarded by Macron, the French president, as sufficient to address his concerns.

Stoltenberg also said that allies remain divided over a push by Turkey to designate as terrorist organizations two Kurdish militias, the YPG and PYD. In the past, the Kurdish forces have joined with NATO allies in the fight against the Islamic State.

During his news conference, the secretary-general sidestepped questions about continuing pressure from Trump over military spending, including the U.S. president’s threat to take punitive action, perhaps on trade policy, against allies like Germany if they do not ramp up spending fast enough.



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