Trump Says Macron Took Back His Negative Comments: NATO Update

Trump Says Macron Took Back His Negative Comments: NATO Update

(Bloomberg) — North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders gathered outside London to talk about issues ranging from arms control to China, wrapping up a two-day gathering to mark the alliance’s 70th anniversary. The first day featured a tense exchange between Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron and an evening reception at Buckingham Palace — with leaders caught gossiping.

Must read: NATO Allies Rally to Isolate Macron as Formal Meeting Underway

Key developments:

At Queen’s reception, leaders captured on camera discussing TrumpNATO leaders asked about Huawei and ChinaTrump blasts Trudeau and scraps news conference

According to Trump, Macron took it all back (3:48 p.m.)

One of the dominant features of these two days was the tussle between Macron and Trump over the merits of the alliance. Trump has gone from being a big critic to a defender. Now it is Macron making a stink about NATO’s limitations.

Trump says “he’s taken back his comments very much so on NATO.” Judging by Macron’s news conference, that does not appear to be the case.

Did Macron compare himself to icebreaker? (3:20 p.m.)

Macron is giving a long news conference where he stood by many of his stern criticism of NATO — and the need for change — and the role of Turkey. He seems to see himself as that agent of change.

“When the ice has built up, you need an icebreaker, to create a way forward,” he said. “This is our responsibility” and called it “France’s historic vocation.”

Trump’s trade threat (3:12 p.m.)

Trump escalated his threat to slap trade penalties on NATO allies who fail to boost their defense spending. “If they don’t, we’ll get them on trade. One way or the other, they’re paying, folks. That I can tell you,” Trump said on Wednesday during lunch with the leaders of the eight other countries who have met the alliances commitment to spend 2% of gross domestic product on defense.

Trump has chastised NATO since his 2016 campaign, accusing countries of ripping off the U.S., which he said has shouldered an unfair burden of defending allies. That criticism sparked fear he could withdraw the U.S. from the alliance. But he spent much of the London summit claiming credit for countries’ increased military budgets.

Canadians downplay “two-faced” comment (2:50 p.m.)

Trudeau is likely to respond to the Trump jab during a press conference Wednesday in London, two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Canadian leader regularly tries to defuse spats like this and has a habit of dancing around direct questions in press conferences. The two officials downplayed the scope of the latest spat, which evokes last year’s eruption at the Group of Seven summit — one said Trudeau’s hot-mic comments were mild and that Trump’s retaliation was, itself, also pretty mild. The other official shrugged it off, saying U.S.-Canada ties are strong, and the benefit of that is countries can work through things. The important thing is the work the countries are doing together on joint initiatives, the official said.

Trump is heading back home (2:33 p.m.)

Trump said in a tweet that he won’t hold a scheduled news conference to conclude the NATO summit, noting that he’s spoken repeatedly to reporters at meetings with world leaders that past two days.

Trump said at a lunch with other NATO members that he’ll speak with reporters at two more meetings, with the leaders of Denmark and Italy. “I think that’s enough,” he said. “There’d be nothing to say.”

Johnson: Huawei Could be Barred From 5G Contracts (2:32 p.m.)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested he might decide against allowing Huawei to supply technology for the U.K.’s 5g infrastructure. He said co-operating with international security allies will be the key factor in the decision. “I don’t want this country to be unnecessarily hostile to investment from overseas, on the other hand, we cannot prejudice our vital national security interest,” Johnson told a news conference in Watford, England.

Asked if he discussed digital taxation with Trump during the meeting, Johnson said “that’s obviously something that’s being raised with our friends in the U.S.”

“We do need to be looking at the question of the vast revenues of big digital companies,” he said. “They are not paying much tax in proportion to the huge sales that they make in this country and we need to address that.”

Johnson: Trump stands “shoulder to shoulder” with U.K. (2:15 p.m.)

“I certainly think the United States is the guarantor — a massive contributor to NATO. Has been for 70 years. A pillar of stability for our collective security,” U.K. prime minister says. “This was under the current U.S. administration and they were shoulder to shoulder with us and could not have been more supportive.”

He declined to discuss the video clip of world leaders apparently gossiping at Buckingham Palace last night which prompted Trump to call Canada’s Trudeau “two-faced.”

Johnson says there’s a desire to push NATO forward (2:10 p.m.)

“Everybody also attested to the fundamental reason for the success of that alliance and it is based on the idea of solidarity,” Johnson says during press conference. “It depends upon values of freedom and democracy the basic idea. One and one encapsulated in Article five of the North Atlantic Treaty, that we come to each other’s actualdefence. That’s why NATO works, that’s why it’s so powerful and so successful.”

He says NATO leaders had “good discussions on Russia,” including the need to be aware of Russia but also the need to engage with it.

German leader draws sharp contrast with Trump (1:55 p.m.)

Angela Merkel kept her words to the huddled press short, and she and her staff kept an icy silence alongside the American delegation while Trump spoke.

“We had a very successful meeting on NATO and discussed various strategies that will be important for the future of NATO,” Merkel said. The chancellor cited unity among the alliance’s 29 leaders, “so I’m very pleased.”

She struggled to chime in only once during Trump’s Q&A when he blasted the state of U.S.-EU trade. The new European Commission will provide a “good basis” for further talks, she said.

The Trump press conference could be off (1:40 p.m.)

The U.S. president has taken a lot of questions from reporters in these two days with most of his bilaterals bona fide press conferences. He even got teased about it. Now, he may have decided to cancel his end-of-summit news conference.

“We’ll go directly back to Washington,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with Merkel. “I think we’ve done plenty of press conferences, unless you’re demanding a press conference, we’ll do one. But I think we’ve answered plenty of questions.”

Trump calls Trudeau “two-faced” (1:25 p.m.)

During a joint briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump was asked about a video showing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Macron, Johnson and Dutch Premier Mark Rutte apparently discussing him at Buckingham Palace last night.

“He’s two-faced,” the U.S. president replied, referring to Trudeau. “And honestly with Trudeau he’s a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy, but the truth is I called him out on the fact that he’s not paying 2% and I guess he’s not happy about it.”

In the clip, Johnson asks Macron why he arrived late to a reception, and Trudeau interjected, saying, “He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.” Trump wasn’t present.

Read about that here.

Final NATO declaration mentions China’s growing influence (1:15 p.m.)

“China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance,” the declaration says. It also takes up a German proposal for an expert group to foster political consultations within NATO.

Trump and Erdogan discussed trade, energy in unplanned chat (1:05 p.m.)

Trump had an unscheduled meeting on Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the meeting.

The White House said the two leaders discussed trade, energy and “fulfilling its alliance commitments” during the meeting, which was not open to U.S. media. The sit-down follows Erdogan’s controversial visit to the White House last month amid tensions over Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria and Ankara’s purchase of a Russian missile system.

Turkey’s actions have sparked friction among NATO allies. Macron on Tuesday pushed back on Trump’s statement that Erdogan had no choice but to buy the missile-defense system from Moscow because of former President Barack Obama’s refusal to sell him Patriot missiles. Macron accused Erdogan of deliberately defying NATO with the purchase and of working with Islamic State “proxies” in Syria.

Trump and Erdogan had a private chat (12:08 p.m.)

It wasn’t scheduled or planned, but in the end Trump and Erdogan set aside some time to chat among themselves. It was far from the cameras, unlike some of Trump’s other high-impact bilaterals. Details and and a readout will emerge later.

Johnson stresses NATO’s importance in opening remarks (10:30 a.m.)

Boris Johnson emphasized the importance of NATO’s mutual-defense doctrine after Macron questioned its credibility, saying “for as long as we stand together, no one can hope to defeat us.”

The U.K. host also implicitly acknowledged some of his French counterpart’s recent critique of the alliance, saying “we must never shy away from discussing new realities, particularly NATO’s response to emerging threats.”

Draft declaration shows leaders want a happy Trump (10:10 a.m.)

If today’s NATO declaration doesn’t change from the draft Bloomberg has seen, it really says one thing: Leaders of the alliance are a whole lot more worried about keeping the president of the U.S. happy, than the president of France.

The draft is short, a fraction of the length of a normal summit communique, but at a largely ceremonial meeting that was by design. After the boilerplate on NATO’s importance, is Trump’s priority: Burden sharing, for which he has been claiming a victory lap, on Twitter and in person. In terms of the threats faced by the alliance, Russia again got top billing; terrorism was in its usual secondary spot, along with hybrid warfare, cyber security and –- another new Trump focus –- space.

The one concession in the draft to Macron’s pre-summit assertion that NATO is ‘brain dead’ was the acceptance, as a final item, of a German proposal to set up an expert council to do the thinking. But NATO chief Stoltenberg was put in charge, making it unlikely anything too radical will emerge.

Trump Keeps Johnson Waiting for Greeting (9:58 a.m.)

Donald Trump emerged at the summit venue – though he left Prime Minister Boris Johnson and NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg bantering awkwardly as they waited for more than five minutes for the U.S. president to arrive. The rest of the alliance’s 28 leaders were already inside. Trump’s morning was otherwise low key, having tweeted that he “enjoyed” his meeting with Johnson the evening before, with talks centered on NATO and trade.

At one moment Johnson chimed in.

“How are we doing?” Johnson asked. “Come on!”

This comes on the morning after other world leaders were caught apparently mocking his tardiness.

The bagpipes played as the leaders set up for the family photo. Trump and Turkey’s Erdogan stood side by side in the front row.

China mentioned in draft declaration (9:15 a.m.)

At the first NATO summit to focus on the rise of China, leaders are due to send a message echoing the European Union position that the country represents both a partner and a rival.

“We recognize that China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance,” according to a draft NATO summit declaration seen by Bloomberg News dated Dec. 2.

Johnson on Photos with Trump (8:00 a.m.)

Boris Johnson, arriving at the Nato summit, dodged a question about whether he’s avoiding being photographed with Trump in the midst Britain’s election campaign. Diplomatic relations will be under scrutiny after footage emerged of Johnson laughing with other world leaders about the length of Trump’s press conference Tuesday (see below).

“I’m going to be photographed with every possible leader at Nato,” Johnson told reporters.

Asked about the talks on Turkey, Johnson replied: “We had a very good discussion about that yesterday afternoon and it is very important that the alliance stays together.”

Johnson and Stoltenberg make opening remarks (8 a.m.)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg started the day on the defensive, still fending off queries about French President Emmanuel Macron’s comment on the alliance’s “brain death.”

“That’s not the case,” an animated Stoltenberg told reporters at the summit venue in Watford outside London. “NATO is agile, NATO is active; NATO is adapting – and NATO is the most successful alliance in history, because we have been able to change again and again when the world is changing.”

The Johnson-Trump meeting behind closed doors (earlier)

There was an element of will-they-won’t they to whether Johnson and Trump would have their own tete-a-tete. Given the U.S. president’s penchant for turning those kinds of meetings into full-on press conferences, there was an element of risk for Johnson. He is on the home stretch of a charged campaign ahead of Dec. 12 elections and Trump can be political kryptonite. Trump is routinely met by protests in London and Johnson’s rival accuses Johnson of putting the beloved state-owned health service for sale.

In the end, after the reception with the Queen, a bunch of leaders went back to 10 Downing Street. And that is where, in private, the Johnson and Trump had their bilateral — with cameras nowhere in sight. A read-out was distributed afterward.

Read more about why Johnson was wary of his interactions with Trump on this visit here.

Having a giggle at Trump’s expense (earlier)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Macron, Johnson and Dutch Premier Mark Rutte are caught on camera at Buckingham Palace discussing what appears to be Trump and delays in arrivals caused by the U.S. president’s lengthy comments to reporters earlier in the day. Johnson is seen turned toward Macron asking why he was late and Trudeau interjects to say “He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top!”

–With assistance from Kitty Donaldson, Onur Ant and Marc Champion.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jordan Fabian in Watford, England at jfabian6@bloomberg.net;Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at jstearns2@bloomberg.net;Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Flavia Krause-Jackson

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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