NATO leaders gathering to mark the alliance’s 70th anniversary in London face multiple challenges — including the uncertainty of what President Donald Trump might do.
Trump opened last year’s NATO summit with a snarling dismissal of its “delinquent” members for not spending more on their defense budgets and a jibe at Germany for being “a captive of Russia.”
This year, Trump is under new pressures — the 2020 election campaign has begun and he faces an impeachment inquiry that begins its next phase before the House judiciary committee on December 4, the second day of the NATO meeting.
The concern, say NATO watchers, is that the gathering of world leaders will provide an irresistible international stage for the US President to let rip with another series of blistering attacks on NATO members to fire up his base back home.
“The betting is that there are going to be some fireworks,” said James Townsend, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO.
NATO is working to manage the potential for fallout, scaling back from a “summit” to a “leaders meeting,” a nuance that allows the alliance to avoid issuing a formal communique that could cause embarrassment if Trump balks at signing.