At the NATO Summit, President Trump will adopt an aggressive rhetoric against radical Islam and the countries that don’t fulfill their duties to the alliance. Britain will support him, while Europe will act reluctantly.
The NATO summit on 25th of May will be of great salience as it is going to clarify President Trump’s intentions towards the EU and NATO. In February’s NATO summit, Trump made some worrying statements about the role and the obligations of EU countries in the alliance. These statements have caused a lot of concern in the EU, especially in the countries of the periphery.
At the NATO summit, we should expect that the President will repeat his past rhetoric about Islamic terrorism and the necessity for European countries to fulfill their obligations to the alliance. EU’s stance, on the other hand, is not expected to deviate from the past.
A Brief Timeline of Trump’s tension with EU
January: Trump suggests that the United States would only provide military aid to a threatened member if it had paid its fair share and called NATO “obsolete”.
The President of Germany Steinmeier said that President Trump’s comments have caused “worry and concern”.
Trump said the EU had become “basically a vehicle for Germany” and accused Merkel of accepting immigrants, that he referred to as “illegals”.
20 February: Secretary General Stoltenberg said that the two items on the agenda for the Brussels summit would be “burden sharing and fighting terrorism”.
March: A meeting between President Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel took place at the White House. The meeting was stigmatized by Trump’s gesture not to shake hands with the Chancellor, showing the tense climate between the two leaders.
Merkel defended Germany’s stance on refugees and globalization, while Trump used the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”.
Trump mentioned the “need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense”, adding that “Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe”. Merkel avoided responding.
April: Trump recalled his statement that NATO is obsolete
What to expect from the NATO summit
Given the above positions of the officials, we should expect that the main topics of the summit will be about Islamic terrorism, NATO’s challenges in Europe and the world, and the necessity for all NATO members to fulfill their military obligations. More specifically, we should expect that the President will ask for more cooperation and controls in the borders between Greece and Turkey. It is essential to mention at this point that from 2016 the EU, through Frontex and NATO, through Maritime Group 2, are in close cooperation patrolling the borders between Greece and Turkey.
Given Trump’s initial statements about the increasing military needs in Europe and in Afghanistan, where the US is looking to deploy at least 3,000 extra troops, Trump would adopt an aggressive rhetoric against those countries that do not fulfill NATO’s aim of 2% of GDP in military expenses. It is worth mentioning that only Poland, Britain, Estonia and Greece fulfilled this aim in 2016. Given the British elections and the Brexit negotiations, Prime Minister Theresa May will probably support Trump’s claims, but it is rather unlikely to follow an aggressive rhetoric.
What should we expect from the EU?
The EU remains very weak in the matter of military cooperation, with EULEX (the European mission in Kosovo) and EUPOL (the European Mission in Palestine) being the EU’s two most significant Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions, which both operate alongside NATO.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and EU’s incompetence to act coherently in the Libya crisis revealed its weakness. Decisive steps towards more cooperation in security and military fields are probably out of the current agenda, as they require a unanimous agreement by the EU member states. There have been, though, important steps towards more cooperation, especially after Brexit. More specifically, in November last year, EU defense ministers decided to allow European states that are willing to engage in greater military cooperation to go ahead, without waiting for the consensus of the others. This concept is in accordance with the notion of multispeed Europe, which has gained a lot of ground in European circles over the last several months.
To sum up, if there is going to be any surprise, this will probably come from President Trump. This is rather unlikely, however, given his recent commitment to NATO’s aims. It is highly likely, though, that Trump will adopt an aggressive rhetoric against those countries that do not fulfill their commitments to the alliance. In this case, Britain will support him. As for the EU, we should expect that its leaders will keep a low profile, without giving promises, given the current weak position of the Union and the upcoming German elections. We should expect, though, that after the German elections, in October of this year, there might be new steps towards military integration, and European integration in general.
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