European leaders and American presidents have not always seen eye-to-eye, but this first summit with Trump carries unique risksby Sophia Besch / May 25, 2017 / Leave a comment
Today, Donald Trump will be attending the Nato summit in Brussels. All signs point to a Europe eager to appease him: they will likely keep meetings short, impress him with a new (if much delayed) headquarters, and scramble to present their achievements in the fields of defence spending and counter terrorism activities—the two topics Trump cares about most.
The importance of a good reception, which might prevent Trump from making any more destructive comments, cannot be overstated. If European or Russian leaders doubt America’s commitment to Nato’s article 5 mutual defence guarantee—or Trump’s willingness to show solidarity with his allies more generally—then the credibility of Nato’s deterrence strategy will suffer immeasurable damage.
A lack of leadership
Yet even if Trump does not say or tweet anything in Brussels that actively undermines Nato’s raison d’être, the absence of American leadership is a loss to the Alliance.
Trump has called into question whether the US would defend its allies in the event of a Russian attack if they had not “fulfilled their obligations” to the US. (Defence Secretary James Mattis quietly countered the president’s comments, calling the American commitment to Nato’s Article 5 “ironclad.”)
In the meantime, Europeans rely too heavily on North American support in the east. Of four battlegroups that Nato has sent to reinforc…