NATO Leaders Fear Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin Summit
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an agreement Thursday on a time and place to hold their first official summit since the controversial G20 summit in July 2017. The meeting will take place on July 16 in Helsinki and U.S. allies in Europe and critics of Russia in America are worried.
A senior European official told reporters that NATO members are now concerned Trump would repeat what he did at the G7 in Canada and provoke a fight with his closest allies and then lavish praise on a dictator as he did on Kim Jong-un in Singapore following the G7. The allies are worried about the contrast between a warm meeting with Putin and clashes with NATO allies over issues like defense spending.
Mark Simakovsky, a former Department of Defense official who focused on Russia policy, said the timing alone of the Trump-Putin meeting will likely set off alarm bells with US allies, according to The Businessinsider. Tensions between the U.S. and its NATO partners were exacerbated by Trump’s calls during the G7 summit this month for Russia to be readmitted to the alliance. Russia was kicked out of the G7 in 2014 after it invaded Ukraine and annexed the territory of Crimea.
“There are already questions about Trump’s commitment to NATO,” Simakovsky said. “The fact that Trump is likely to meet with Putin so close to the NATO summit seems like a purposeful step to signal his displeasure toward the alliance, while showcasing himself as a kingmaker, someone who makes big deals with big leaders, irrespective of the interests of our closest allies.”
According to The Politico, Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security who focuses on NATO said, “I think the Europeans have been worried about this meeting since Trump became president.” Benitez added, “The optics coming out of Singapore were not good. I think it raises fears of just how much he’ll embrace Putin.”
Such global recognition could help Putin toward some of his longer-term goals like the recognition that Russia was right to annex a portion of Ukraine in 2014 or even a pledge to end the expansion of NATO.