NATO leaders set aside public insults ranging from “delinquent” to “brain dead” and “two-faced” on Wednesday, declaring at a 70th anniversary summit they would stand together against a common threat from Russia and prepare for China’s rise.
Officials insisted the summit was a success: most notably, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan backed off from a threat to block plans to defend northern and eastern Europe unless allies declared Kurdish fighters in Syria terrorists.
But the meeting began and ended in acrimony startling even for the era of U.S. President Donald Trump, who arrived declaring the French president “nasty” and left calling Canada’s prime minister “two-faced” for mocking him on a hot mic.
“We have been able to overcome our disagreements and continue to deliver on our core tasks to protect and defend each other,” NATO’s ever-optimistic Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.
In a joint declaration, the alliance’s 29 leaders said: “Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security; terrorism in all its forms and manifestations remains a persistent threat to us all.”
The half-day summit at a golf resort on the outskirts of London was always going to be tricky, with officials hoping to avoid bust-ups that burst forth at their meeting last year when Trump complained about allies failing to bear the financial burden of collective security.
This year’s meeting was made even more difficult by Erdogan, who launched an incursion into Syria and bought Russian missiles against the objections of his allies, and by French President Emmanuel Macron, who had described the alliance’s strategy as brain dead in an interview last month.
In public it seemed to go worse than expected, beginning on Tuesday when Trump called Macron’s remarks “very, very nasty” and described allies who spend too little on defense as “delinquents” – a term officials said Trump used again on Wednesday behind closed doors during the summit itself.
At a Buckingham Palace reception on Tuesday evening, Canada’s Justin Trudeau was caught on camera with Macron, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands laughing at Trump’s long press appearances. “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” said Trudeau.
Trump said Trudeau was upset because he had called him out for not meeting his 2% of national output contribution to NATO’s costs. “He’s two-faced,” Trump said of his North American neighbor.