NATO was founded to unite member nations around the principle of collective defence. But this year's summit began and ended in acrimony
Seventy years ago the NATO military alliance was founded to unite member nations around the principle of collective defence. But this year’s summit in the United Kingdom began and ended in acrimony, with insults hurled in public and behind closed doors. And, while the leaders of the 29 NATO states made a show of solidarity in their final declaration, saying that “an attack against one Ally shall be considered an attack against us all,” the two-day meeting was more notable for all the times the leaders attacked each other. Here are some of the spats, skirmishes and awkward moments between NATO leaders, with a special appearance by the Royal family.
Macron versus NATO
French President Emmanuel Macron set the tone for the NATO summit, claiming last month that the military alliance is suffering from “brain death.” He stood by his comments when he arrived at the summit, saying it was important for leaders to discuss issues in an open and forthright manner. “I think it’s our responsibility to raise differences that could be damaging and have a real strategic debate,” he said. France and Germany won backing from other member nations for a strategic review of NATO’s mission, with the alliance set to establish a “wise persons” group to study how the organization needs to reposition for the future. “You need an icebreaker, to create a way forward,” Macron said. He seems to see himself as that agent of change.
Macron versus Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump has gone from being a big critic to a defender of NATO. He disagreed with Macron’s assessment of NATO, calling his remarks before the summit “very, very nasty.” While Trump announced that Macron has “taken back his comments very much so on NATO,” Macron stood by his stern criticism. In a joint press conference, an attempt by Trump to lighten the mood also fell flat. In response to a question from a reporter, Trump asked Macron if he wants to take some ISIL fighters and Macron replied with a gruff, “Let’s be serious.” The French leader said that taking foreign fighters will be decided on a case-by-case basis and that the priority is to finish the war against ISIL. The U.S. president then said: “This is why he is the greatest politician, because that was one of the best non-answers of all time.”
Trump and the two-per-centers
Trump says America has shouldered too much of NATO’s defence budget for too long. In a press conference, Trump described allies who spend too little on defence as “delinquents” — a term officials said Trump used again on Wednesday behind closed doors. Trump escalated his threat to slap trade penalties on NATO allies who fail to boost their defence spending. “One way or the other, they’re paying, folks. That I can tell you,” Trump said on Wednesday during lunch with the leaders of the eight other countries who have met the alliance’s commitment to spend two per cent of gross domestic product on defence.
The Queen versus Princess Annehttps://twitter.com/EdwardTHardy/status/1202188297365270529
The internet read a lot into a viral video clip of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne. At a reception at Buckingham Palace Tuesday night, the Queen, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, were lined up to greet Trump and his wife Melania while Anne stood off to the side. The video shows the Queen exchanging a few words with Trump before glancing at Anne and saying something inaudible. Anne responds with “It’s just me” and a shrug of her shoulders. British tabloids speculated that the Queen had scolded Anne for not joining in the welcome party and Anne had shrugged her off. “Princess Anne’s incredible reaction after ‘scolding’ from Queen for not greeting Trump,” read the Mirror headline. However, only Charles and Camilla were supposed to take part in the reception line. And a longer version of the clip shows Anne and others laughing after the exchange, suggesting it was far from acrimonious. The trio of royals also left the reception line to follow the Trumps, suggesting Anne might have been letting her mother know that there were no more guests to greet. The palace has not commented on the exchange.
Trudeau versus Trump
Princess Anne makes an appearance in a second viral video from the reception at Buckingham Palace, but this time in a supporting role. She was part of a huddle of gossiping world leaders, which also included British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, France’s Macron, and Justin Trudeau. After Johnson asked Macron, “is that why you were late?” Trudeau could be heard saying “he was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.” Trudeau confirmed the next day he was referring to Trump’s long and unscheduled question-and-answer session with journalists earlier Tuesday. Trudeau also said: “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor.” He later explained that was in reference to Trump’s decision to hold the next Group of Seven meeting at Camp David, the presidential retreat. “We were all surprised and I think pleased to learn that the next G-7 will be at Camp David, I think that was an unscheduled announcement,” Trudeau later said.
Trump versus Trudeau
Speaking Wednesday, Trump said Trudeau was likely upset that the U.S. president had broached the fact that Canada falls short of the NATO spending target in a press conference on Tuesday. “Well he’s two-faced,” Trump told reporters. “And honestly, with Trudeau he’s a nice guy, I find him to be a very nice guy but you know the truth is that I called him out on the fact that he’s not paying two per cent and I guess he’s not very happy about it.” Trudeau had a quiet word and a handshake with Trump as he arrived at the summit, and later tried to shrug off the episode. “As you all know, we have a very good and constructive relationship,” Trudeau told reporters at a news conference as he sought to downplay his comments. Asked if the incident had given him pause for thought, Trudeau said that ensuring the focus of attention remained on matters of substance “is something that we’re all going to try to do a little harder.” Trump had his own hot mic gaffe on Wednesday. He was caught quipping: “That was funny when I said the guy is two-faced.”
Turkey versus the rest of NATO?
This year’s meeting was made difficult by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently launched an incursion into Syria and bought Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles against the objections of his allies. Macron has complained that Turkey, a NATO member since 1952 and a critical ally in the Middle East, has increasingly acted unilaterally. However, Erdogan was responsible for a rare show of unity at the summit, backing off from a threat to block all declarations unless allies declared Kurdish fighters in Syria terrorists. The NATO leaders then published a joint declaration against the threat poised by Russia, and expanded its gaze to include China. But it is unclear how strong the alliance really is at a time of intense internal divisions that were on full display at this week’s summit.
With files from The Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg and Aileen Donnelly, National Post