US General Ben Hodges: ‘Russia only respects strength’

In the space of a week, the US president has attacked NATO and cozied up to Vladimir Putin. Retired US Army General Ben Hodges told DW that Trump alienating US allies “worries every military professional” he knows.

Polen Warschau Militärparade US General Ben Hodges (picture-alliance/(AP Photo/A. Keplicz)

After military experience in Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Frederick “Ben” Hodges served his last military assignment as commander of the United States Army in Europe, before his retirement in December 2017. Now living in Frankfurt, Germany, he is Pershing Chair of Strategic Studies at the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

DW: What did you make of President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with his US counterpart Donald Trump in Helsinki? Do you share what seems to be the common view: That it was a diplomatic disaster that undermines multilateral alliances like NATO?

Hodges: I’m reluctant to say anything is a disaster so immediately after it happened. It’s just going to take a little bit of time for things to filter out. Certainly all the reports I’ve seen would indicate that nobody was happy with it except the Russians. I think, on the plus side, at least there have been no announcements of something like: You can do what you want with Ukraine or Georgia. There’s no indication that this was like in the 18th century, when great powers traded away space to each other. I think there’s a little bit of a sigh of relief that way.

I think it’s going to be a huge problem for Trump in the US, because so many Republicans have also come out with very strong criticism, that he didn’t put a stake in the heart of this whole business about Russian meddling in the US election. He wouldn’t condemn it, he didn’t hold Putin accountable, I mean, it’s inexplicable.

Watch video01:32

Donald Trump draws fierce criticism after Putin summit

DW: Trump began his European trip by criticizing NATO allies and ended it by failing to criticize Putin. What should we read into that?

First and foremost, our great alliance NATO — it’s not perfect, lots of work that always needs doing — but it’s still the most successful alliance in the history of the world. The alliance has made it through tough times before, but it was always because the nations shared common interests and values, and there was never a question that the US would always provide leadership. For the first time in my life, the American president put that in question, which really concerns me. What is new is that the president is so openly disrespectful and dismissive of our most important allies — that worries every military professional I know.

Helsinki Trump Putin (picture alliance/dpa)Many people interpreted the Helsinki meeting as a disaster for Trump

Read more: Trump ignites firestorm with attacks on Germany

Secondly, I don’t think the president appreciates alliances and international organizations. I think that’s unfortunate, because for the US, the alliance is an essential part of our overall national security strategy. The 30,000 troops that are in Germany are not there to defend Germany, that’s part of our overall contribution to collective security. And frankly Germany is the essential ally for the US, because of the access it gives us to do so much. It’s our forward presence, if you will, our intelligence cooperation. I’ve always believed that Germany is the ally the US should be working hardest to have that relationship with. The fact that the president singled out the chancellor: I think that was a terrible mistake.

Read moreOpinion: Trump-Putin summit was a troubling media circus

DW: But many analysts and conservative German politicians shared Trump’s criticism that Germany should be spending more on defense.

Yes, having said all that, while most of the nations were beginning to do more in terms of burden-sharing, I think the president drew a lot of attention to it and probably added some momentum to it, which is needed. So I think he should get some credit for that. Honestly, half of America doesn’t understand either why European countries don’t do more. But I didn’t like the way it’s done – I think it’s harmful in the long run.

DW: A lot of the points that Trump made — on NATO spending, and on Nord Stream 2 — are shared by defense analysts. So it just Trump’s style that bothers people?

I don’t want to say it’s just style — that minimizes the damage that Trump does to these relationships. Style is a part of it, but it’s much worse than that, it’s a disregard for our allies and what it means to be an ally. Germany does so much to help the alliance, and to help the United States, which doesn’t fit into this 2 percent (the percentage of GDP that NATO wants its members to spend on defense – DW). I really don’t like that 2 percent as the only measure. I understand why we have it, but I think it’s time for a much more sophisticated approach to burden-sharing, and what it really means. What the alliance needs Germany to do just doesn’t fit neatly under that 2 percent.

Watch video06:15

Trump’s European trip ‘an unblemished win for Putin’

DW: Some people in Germany are a little distrustful of NATO and the Cold War rhetoric of antagonism towards Russia. They aren’t Trump supporters, but they certainly don’t want conflict with Russia either. Do you think there’s any truth to the idea that we make the threat of Russia bigger than it is?

No, absolutely not. For 400 hundred years, Russia has always used every element of its power, whether it’s economic, diplomatic, or military power, to achieve what it wanted. We need to be realistic about it: Russia only respects strength. Russia’s the one that invaded Ukraine, Russia’s the one that invaded Georgia, Russia’s the one that’s threatening Baltic countries, and talks about Romania, Denmark, and Sweden being nuclear targets — this is a real threat.

Now, there’s not a long line of Russian tanks sitting across the border with engines running waiting to launch a ground invasion. I don’t expect that, although they’ve retained that capability in combination with cyber- and misinformation, and the threat of nuclear weapons. Number two: All of us, including the US, disarmed significantly in the last few years because we thought Russia was going to be our partner. The last American tank went home from Germany five years ago. The Bundeswehr almost completely disarmed, and now because of what Russia has done, everybody is hustling to rebuild sufficient capability to deter.

Read moreGerman politicians rally round Merkel after Trump’s NATO tirade

DW: So in that context, how worrying was this summit, and the apparent hold that Putin has over Trump?

Well, the fact that they met is not bad. In fact, the tenser the situation is the more you would want people to meet to make sure there are no misunderstandings. The problem is so many people don’t have confidence in what President Trump is doing or saying. Meeting for the sake of meeting is not helpful if you’re not clear about expectations and if you’re not putting pressure on Russia. Again, the Russians only respect strength, and I think right now the alliance does not look strong, and the president does not look strong.


‘Very much counter to the plan’: Trump defies advisers in embrace of Putin


President Trump appears with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
By Ashley ParkerJosh Dawsey and Carol D. LeonnigJuly 16 at 11:01 PMEmail the author
Administration officials had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Monday’s summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladmir Putin would end differently — without a freewheeling 46-minute news conferencein which Trump attacked his own FBI on foreign soil and warmly praised archrival Russia.

Ahead of the meeting, staffers provided Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according to one person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Trump’s remarks were “very much counter to the plan,” the person said.

“Everyone around Trump” was urging him to take a firm stance with Putin, according to a second person familiar with the preparations. Before Monday’s meeting, the second person said, advisers covered matters from Russia’s annexation of Crimea to its interference in the U.S. elections, but Trump “made a game-time decision” to handle the summit his way.

“I think that the United States has been foolish,” Trump said at one point, referring to tensions with Russia. “I think we’ve all been foolish. We should’ve had this dialogue a long time ago; a long time, frankly, before I got to office.”

A senior White House official disputed the idea that the president acted unilaterally, and said he had numerous sessions with senior administration officials preparing for the summit in addition to briefing materials.

In the end, Trump’s performance alongside Putin in the Finnish capital seemed like a tour through his most controversial conspiracy theories, tweets and off-the-cuff musings on Russia — except he did it all while abroad, standing just feet from Putin, the leader of one of America’s greatest geopolitical foes.

Watch Donald Trump’s full news conference with Vladimir Putin

Here are the full remarks and responses to questions from President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a news conference on July 16 in Helsinki. (The Washington Post)
The spectacle in Helsinki also underscored Trump’s eagerness to disregard his own advisers, his willingness to flout the conclusions of his own intelligence community — that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections — and his apparent fear that pressing Putin on the subject might cast doubt on his electoral victory.

[Trump hands Putin a diplomatic triumph by casting doubt on U.S. intelligence agencies]

“The president has been more reluctant than most to weigh into the idea that Russia did it and they’re still doing it,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). “He felt that would undermine his own election.”

This account of the days leading up to Trump’s Helsinki summit is based on interviews with more than a half-dozen White House officials, advisers and diplomats, most of whom requested anonymity to reveal internal discussions.

Signs that things might not go according to plan were evident during the two days Trump spent holed up at his luxury seaside golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland.

Trump’s warm interactions with Putin

At their summit in Helsinki on July 16, President Trump appeared to wink at Russian President Vladimir Putin at least twice. (Jenny Starrs /The Washington Post)
The president spent much of the weekend “growling,” in the words of one White House official, over the Justice Department’s indictment Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officials for interfering in the 2016 election. He fretted that the timing of the indictments was intended to injure him politically, the official said.

But a senior White House official said Trump had been in favor of announcing the indictments before the trip so he could raise the issue privately with Putin.

Trump also made it clear that he was more excited to sit down with the Russian president than he had been to visit with NATO allies earlier in the week in Brussels.

“He loved the summit with Kim Jong Un,” the White House official said, referring to the North Korean leader with whom Trump met last month in Singapore. “He thinks he can sit down eye to eye with these guys, flatter them and make a deal.”

In advance of the Putin meeting, White House officials repeatedly told European allies “not to worry,” according to diplomats familiar with the discussions. No deals would be made between Putin and Trump, they said, and no secret promises would be offered that could threaten the balance of power on the continent.

They also said the summit would have a declaration text that was short and generic.

[The Take: The moment called for Trump to stand up for America. He chose to bow.]

But the officials could not provide similar assurances about the summit’s live news conference, a setting where the president routinely defies the carefully laid plans of his White House team.

One European official acknowledged the difficulty of relying on the assurances of Trump’s aides, saying, “These people don’t control the reality.”

Putin almost seemed unable to hide his delight as Trump, standing just to his right, excoriated the FBI, Hillary Clinton and Democrats, among others, and said he held “both” Russia and the United States responsible for the declining relations between the two countries.

Trump had grown frustrated that his own government had been so negative about meeting with Putin and wanted a one-on-one meeting so it would not leak, aides said. One senior White House official described Trump’s public remarks as striking a deliberately “contrarian” tone.

Administration officials said Trump’s national security team — including national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — has generally urged him to be tough on Putin and to view the Russian leader through a far more negative prism than he does.

[Putin’s view triumphs in Helsinki]

Trump’s remarks in Helsinki were met with widespread condemnation, including from many within his own party.

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats put out a statement distancing himself from Trump and his comments. “The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers,” Coats said in the statement. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”

As Trump flew back to Washington aboard Air Force One late Monday, he and his team struggled to quell the outcry.

“President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin,” tweeted Newt Gingrich, a steadfast Trump ally and former Republican House speaker, whose wife Trump appointed ambassador to the Vatican. “It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected — immediately.”

Trump issued a tweet that seemed to backtrack slightly. “As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people,’ ” he wrote. “However, I also recognize that to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past — as the world’s two largest nuclear ­powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI2018.”

And others rushed to Trump’s defense. Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, downplayed the controversy.

“I didn’t think Trump was going to call him a liar to his face after he denied it,” Bennett said. “I don’t think it makes sense to stand six feet from him and call him a liar.”

One of Trump’s most vocal defenders was Vice President Pence, who has cemented his relationship with the president through unflinching loyalty.

In a speech to Commerce Department employees Monday afternoon, Pence offered a rosy review of what he described as Trump’s “historic trip” abroad.

“The truth is, over the last week, the world saw once again that President Donald Trump stands without apology as leader of the free world,” Pence said. “. . . What the world saw, what the American people saw, is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first.”

John Hudson and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.
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Ashley ParkerAshley Parker is a White House reporter for The Washington Post. She joined The Post in 2017, after 11 years at the New York Times, where she covered the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns and Congress, among other things. Follow 

Josh DawseyJosh Dawsey is a White House reporter for The Washington Post. He joined the paper in 2017. He previously covered the White House for Politico, and New York City Hall and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the Wall Street Journal. Follow 

Carol LeonnigCarol Leonnig is an investigative reporter at The Washington Post, where she has worked since 2000. She won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for her work on security failures and misconduct inside the Secret Service. Follow 


German politicians rally round Angela Merkel after Donald Trump’s NATO tirade

Trump’s reckless attacks on Germany have become routine, but they have strengthened rather than weakened the chancellor at home. So, does Trump merely have a personal problem with Merkel, or does he have other motives?

Donald Trump and Chancellor Merkel (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld)

Donald Trump seems to have a Germany obsession, the country’s biggest newspaper, Bild, said on Thursday. Whether it’s the country’s refugee policy, (Merkel is “ruining Germany” he tweeted in 2015), the luxury cars (he told Playboy as long ago as 1990 that he would like to tax them more heavily), or its NATO contributions, the US president has consistently picked on Germany when he needs a foreign power to lash out at.

The latest rock was thrown on Wednesday night, when Trump took to Twitter to repeat his blustering opening tirade before NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. For the US president, Germany’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline deal with Russia was at odds with its defense budget, which he thinks is too low.

Donald J. Trump


….On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable! All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!

Defending Merkel

Once Merkel had delivered her own reaction, in the form of a history lesson and her personal history in East Germany, other German government politicians lined up to reject Trump’s criticisms. First Foreign Minister Heiko Maas vehemently rejected Trump’s description of Germany as a “captive of Russia.” Germany was one of the “guarantors of the free world,” he told reporters in Brussels. “We’re not captives, either of Russia or the US.”

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen pointed out to US radio station NPR that Trump’s assertion that Germany gets 70 percent of its energy from Russia was “simply not true.” The actual figure, the German government said, is around 9 percent.

Merkel’s coalition partners also circled the wagons. “The accusations of the American president against Germany because of the building of Nord Stream 2 are not objective and immoderate,” said Rolf Mützenich, senior MP at the Social Democratic Party (SPD), in a statement. “They simply follow his trade policy instincts.”

Mützenich went on to explain patiently why building a new gas pipeline from Russia to Europe made economic sense for Germany, and contrasted Trump’s “intimidation attempts” to the more diplomatic approach from Ukraine, whose government has its own concerns about Nord Stream 2.

Ursula von der Leyen (Reuters/R. Krause)Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen pointed out the facts to Donald Trump

Read more: Opinion: A NATO summit in Trump’s parallel universe

Strengthening Merkel

It’s no secret that Trump and Merkel have a poor personal relationship, but German political analysts don’t think she is Trump’s real target. “He sees Germany as the entry point to try to crack the European Union,” said Josef Janning, head of the Berlin bureau of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). “Because if you want to crack a pack, you attack the alpha animal.”

But even if Trump succeeds in weakening the EU, Janning thinks it is having the opposite effect on Merkel herself – especially in the rift between herself and those on the right of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and the domestic forces who would like to see the end of the Merkel era. “Within her own government she is closing the ranks, very clearly,” he told DW. “When she is under obviously unfair attack from the outside, that will bring at least the mainstream together behind her.”

Watch video00:36

Merkel: ‘We know we need to do more, and we’ve been doing more for some time’

Janning argued that Trump’s stark overstatements, either on trade, or defense spending, or on Russia, might play well with voters supporting the fringes of the German political spectrum, but not with Merkel’s own CDU voters – even the more conservative ones.

Undermining the world order

But for other analysts, all this is beside the point. Claudia Major, senior researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), thinks the Germany criticism is just a sideshow. “It’s not about Merkel or Russia or energy or pipelines, or any of that,” she told DW.

“That’s just an excuse for Trump. For him it’s about completely undermining the multilateral trans-Atlantic order as we know it. And I think that the scale of the problem we have hasn’t yet been realized in Germany. If he valued NATO, and if he felt that its survival was important, he wouldn’t act this way.”

Read moreCan the trans-Atlantic relationship survive Donald Trump?

Major pointed out that Trump had taken up a different position to most of his European partners on nearly every major international issue, from the Iran nuclear deal to the Paris climate agreement, to moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. “Trump rejects the entire multilateral, rule-based architecture, like NATO, WTO, EU, which is based on solidarity,” she said. “What he wants is not alliances but deals.”

She also had little optimism about the apparent agreement on Thursday that NATO partners would raise their defense expenditure. “Do you think he’s going to be happy with two percent?” she asked. “The core function of NATO – as a defensive alliance – has already been enormously undermined by all this bickering. Even if he says now that 2 percent is great – the damage has been done.”

“I think he has Germany especially in his sights because Germany stands for everything he thinks is stupid,” Major added. “But at the end of the day, Germany is just the hook – it’s about much more.”

Watch video08:26

Why did Trump attack German-Russian energy links at NATO?


Trump berates NATO allies and then asks them to double their defense spending goals

Trump says Germany is ‘captive’ to Russia after pipeline deal

President Trump slammed Germany on July 11, over a gas pipeline deal with Russia. He said the country is now “captive to Russia.” 

 President Trump ripped into NATO allies Wednesday, slamming Germany for its dependence on Russian energy and demanding that nations double their military spending commitments.

European diplomats have been worried about continued U.S. support for NATO. But even as Trump hit allies, he also signed on to efforts to strengthen the alliance against the Kremlin and other rivals, as well as a statement that the alliance does not accept Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

On spending, Trump insisted in a closed-door meeting of NATO leaders that the alliance increase its defense targets to 4 percent of each country’s gross domestic product — more than what the United States channels toward its military. It was not clear whether he was serious about a new standard or whether he was using the number as a negotiating tactic to edge overall spending higher and get European nations to pay more.

The push came hours after Trump bashed Germany for “being captive to Russia” because it imports much of its natural gas from there. That tirade, over breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, was rare in its bitterness.

“We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against,” Trump said, referring to European purchases of Russian natural gas.

Stoltenberg on defense spending: Let’s get to 2 percent

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg answered questions about defense spending July 11, after President Trump urged NATO leaders to increase commitments. 

Despite the contentiousness, Trump agreed to a 23-page declaration that Stoltenberg said would guide a more robust NATO defense for years to come. Other NATO leaders welcomed the decision, even as they said Trump’s divisive approach to his allies weakened the alliance.

Stoltenberg sought to project unity at the conclusion of the first of two days of meetings in Brussels.

“We do have disagreements, but most importantly, we have decisions that are pushing this alliance forward and making us stronger,” Stoltenberg said. “At the end of the day, we all agree that North America and Europe are safer together.”

NATO leaders are still concerned that Trump will make concessions to Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two meet on Monday in Helsinki.

Trump has complained bitterly about Europe’s lagging defense spending, saying that NATO nations are taking advantage of U.S. military largesse at the same time they are offering unfair trade terms to U.S. businesses.

Only eight of 29 NATO countries are on track to meet pledges of spending 2 percent of their GDPs on defense this year. Washington spent 3.6 percent last year. When he has talked about it in recent days, Trump has rounded up to 4 percent. And after Wednesday’s meeting, he tweeted with a demand for countries to meet the current 2 percent target.

Front row from left, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May attend the opening ceremony at the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

“President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Several NATO experts dismissed the seriousness of the 4 percent proposal.

“No country in the world can meet that,” said Bobo Lo, a Russia scholar who attended the summit. “He’s asking for something outrageous, not in the hope of getting it, but in getting to 2 percent or more.”

An official present when Trump made the demand said that “the room was aghast,” even though Trump was actually more cordial in private than in his public remarks. The official, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private proceedings.

A favorite target of Trump’s ire has been Germany, which has not met its NATO spending commitments and has granted permits for a second natural gas pipeline to Russia. Germany and other European NATO partners argue, however, that they have boosted their contributions to the military alliance and plan to kick in more in coming years. Germany’s leadership has said the pipeline is a private business decision, and it has been reluctant to interfere.

The accusation of Russian influence may have been particularly biting for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in Communist-controlled East Germany.

“I myself experienced a part of Germany that was controlled by the Soviet Union, and I am very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merkel told reporters as she entered NATO headquarters. “We decide our own policies and make our own decisions.”

Inside the closed-door meeting, she went further in her pushback, according to two officials who were present. In firm, unemotional language, Merkel told the other 28 leaders how Putin once served as a KGB officer and spy in her own country, making clear that she had little tolerance for being told her nation was controlled by the Kremlin.

Trump traveled to Europe saying that next week’s summit with Putin may be the easiest part of his week of diplomacy — an unusual assertion, challenging the notion that NATO should project a strong and united front against a strategic rival.

Trump has preferred to take aim at allies.

Trump: ‘We have a tremendous relationship with Germany’

President Trump beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels on July 11. Earlier in the day, Trump accused Germany of being “captive to Russia.” 

Even Stoltenberg — a mild-mannered former Norwegian prime minister who has cultivated a positive relationship with the president — appeared reduced to spluttering as Trump cut him off after he started to explain that allies traded with Russia even during the Cold War. Earlier in the exchange, Trump demanded credit from Stoltenberg for forcing an increase of NATO defense budgets.

“We’re supposed to protect Germany, but they’re getting their energy from Russia,” Trump said, as aides on both the U.S. and NATO side of a long table shifted in their seats. Trump’s chief of staff, John F. Kelly, grimaced. U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison looked up at the ceiling. “So explain that,” Trump said. “And it can’t be explained, and you know that.”

Trump’s criticism set off immediate anxiety in Germany. Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung headlined its story: “It is not only bad, it is catastrophic.” Russia’s state-owned Rossiya 1 broadcaster — a reliable proxy for Kremlin views — blasted the remarks as well.

Germany’s energy relationship with Russia has long frustrated Washingtonand Eastern Europe, who fear that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will bypass the Baltic nations and Poland, could be used to cut them off from crucial energy supplies. Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is a top executive at the Russian-government-controlled company that runs the pipeline.

Trump has promoted exports of U.S. natural gas to Europe as an alternativeto Russia as a supply source, although U.S. gas is far more expensive because of shipping costs.

Key moments from Stoltenberg’s NATO news conference

Here are key moments from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s remarks to reporters in Brussels on July 11. 

The defense decisions made Wednesday were the result of months of careful negotiation, seemingly separate from Trump’s improvisatory policymaking.

NATO leaders unveiled two new military headquarters: one that would help secure the Atlantic Ocean in times of conflict and the other to speed military movement across Europe. They bolstered NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and expanded efforts to fight terrorism. And they reconfirmed their tough line on Russia’s annexation of Crimea, as well as their pledge to continue pressing the Kremlin through sanctions and diplomacy to return it to Ukraine. Officials from the NATO countries that border Russia embraced the outcome.

“All the decisions contain everything we were wishing for,” said Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. “It shows that there is a genuine wish to have practical cooperation.”

Trump will have more NATO meetings on Thursday. Following that, he will travel to England to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May, then spend the weekend at one of his private golf clubs in Scotland. Finally, he will head to Helsinki for a summit with Putin.

Josh Dawsey, John Hudson, Philip Rucker and Quentin Ariès contributed to this report.

Trump Pressures NATO Allies as He Heads to Summit

President will push leaders on military spending, trade at meeting before holding summit with Russia’s Putin

What to Expect From NATO’s Summit in Brussels

The NATO summit in Brussels will take place amid tense relationships within the alliance. The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald F. Seib looks at what to expect. Photo: Getty

President Donald Trump leveled fresh criticism against allies over their military spending as he kicked off a seven-day tour through Europe that begins with a NATO gathering and ends with a summit with President Vladimir Putin aimed at resetting U.S. relations with Moscow.

The trip will showcase two foreign-policy thrusts of the administration: Mr. Trump’s contention that the U.S. has been unfairly treated by its European allies on trade and security, and his interest in improving relations with Russia, despite Moscow’s efforts to divide the West and meddle in elections in the U.S. and across Europe.

It also comes on the heels of a similar one-two combination last month that European allies and some U.S. officials say they are loath to repeat: a contentious meeting in Quebec with members of the Group of Seven, including the major European powers, followed by a Singapore summit between Mr. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“The European Union makes it impossible for our farmers and workers and companies to do business in Europe (U.S. has a $151 Billion trade deficit), and then they want us to happily defend them through NATO, and nicely pay for it. Just doesn’t work!” Mr. Trump tweeted Tuesday as Air Force One made its descent into a World Cup-gripped Belgium.

Donald J. Trump


Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting – NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!

Earlier in the day, he tweeted: “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”

The European Union had earlier Tuesday issued a stark rebuke to Mr. Trump’s recent criticisms, warning the U.S. against undermining the trans-Atlantic alliance a day before the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit. “Money is important, but genuine solidarity is even more important,” European Council President Donald Tusk said. “America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many.”

Europeans say Mr. Trump’s understanding of trans-Atlantic economic relations is based on an incomplete and distorted use of the data. They complain his assertion that Europe has a $151 billion trade surplus with the U.S. counts only goods, ignoring, among other things, his own government’s estimate of a $51 billion surplus in services.

The two-day NATO summit opens Wednesday in Brussels, where Mr. Trump is expected to hold a single bilateral meeting, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. On Thursday afternoon, he will travel to London for meetings with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and an audience with Queen Elizabeth II, before heading to Scotland to prepare for Monday’s summit in Helsinki with Mr. Putin.

As he left the White House on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump expressed confidence about his coming summit with Mr. Putin while describing “turmoil” in the U.K. Listing the stops on his trip, he told reporters: “I have NATO, I have the U.K.—that’s a situation with turmoil. And I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of all.”

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One on Tuesday morning.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One on Tuesday morning.PHOTO: PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

He also praised his relationship with Mrs. May but stopped short of calling for her to remain in her post amid a series of recent resignations in the British government. “That’s up to the people,” he said of Mrs. May’s future. “I get along with her very well.”

Within the Trump administration, officials are divided over how to approach the NATO summit. Since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has criticized NATO allies for not meeting their defense-spending commitments, complaints he reiterated in a series of letters to NATO leaderslast month.


Military spending is among the top issues NATO leaders will debate

  • Raising members’ military spending toward target of 2% of GDP
  • Assurance of mutual defense, U.S. security umbrella
  • Training Iraqi military and Afghan security forces
  • Boosting defense of the Baltic states

Some U.S. officials, including national security adviser John Bolton, are pushing for Mr. Trump to continue to ramp up pressure on allies, at the risk of straining relationships amid a brewing trade fight. The EU last month began imposing duties on a range of American products in retaliation for separate U.S. curbs imposed on steel and aluminum.

President Donald Trump will attend the NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday.
President Donald Trump will attend the NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday. PHOTO: ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Others in the administration are eager to see unity ahead of the summit with Mr. Putin, which has sparked concerns in Europe and at home that Mr. Trump might make concessions to improve relations with Moscow. U.S. officials have said Mr. Trump will press Mr. Putin, a leader he has often praised, to change Russia’s international behavior.

Those officials are eager to avoid parallels with last month’s G-7 summit, where Mr. Trump clashed with allies—tweeting as he departed the summit that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was “dishonest” and “weak.”

A. Wess Mitchell, the State Department’s top official for trans-Atlantic affairs, said the U.S. would seek to strike “a balance between that which is laudatory, and the need to continue to press the Europeans to do more.”

Arming SlowlyEuropean defense spending is rising…NATO Europe defense spending, changefrom previous year

…but remains small compared with the U.S.’s.Source: NATONote: Constant 2010 prices and exchange rates;2017 figures are estimates
%NATO Europe military spending as apercentage of U.S. military spending2011’12’13’14’15’16’170255075100

Mr. Stoltenberg on Tuesday said “robust” discussions would likely take place in the coming days between the allies, including on military spending. “This summit will show that we are able to deliver on security, on defense, despite the disagreements on trade and other issues,” he said.

Canada on Tuesday pledged to increase the number of its troops deployed in Eastern Europe and extend its role leading a 1,100-soldier NATO deployment in Latvia, which is part of the alliance’s efforts to curb Russian aggression in the region. Mr. Trudeau, whose government plans to increase defense spending to 1.4% of gross domestic product by 2027, said Canada’s contribution to the mission would be extended by another four years.

Mr. Trump singled out Canada in his letters to NATO leaders, expressing “growing frustration…that key allies like Canada have not stepped up defense spending as promised.”

The U.S. ambassador to the alliance said Tuesday that Mr. Trump is unconditionally committed to NATO’s collective security pledge—that an attack on one member nation is an attack on all—and would say so this week. “There’s no window of difference between any of our allies about Article 5,” Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison said. “It’s the foundation of NATO.”

The NATO communiqué, which reiterates pledges to boost military spending and undertake military missions already agreed upon and which Washington strongly supports, is expected to be approved, including by the U.S., during or after the summit.

European leaders are bracing for a rocky week, amid growing worries that a divergence between European and American security interests under the Trump administration could endanger Europe’s U.S. security umbrella.

Foreign-policy analysts described particular apprehension toward the summit from Berlin. Germany, which has just adopted plans to lift military spending to 1.5% of GDP by 2025, is already mired in a trade dispute with Washington, and diplomats acknowledge personal tensions between Mr. Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Tyson Barker, a former State Department official who serves as a program director at the Aspen Institute Germany, described a “white-knuckle mentality” in Berlin ahead of the summit. The thinking there, he said, is: “Can we get through it without a disaster?”

At last year’s NATO summit, Mr. Trump rattled allies by hammering them over their military spending, saying they “owed massive amounts of money,” while refusing to say he supported the alliance’s common defense provision, known as Article 5. He later endorsed the provision.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at


NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg: ‘We don’t want a new Cold War’ with Russia

In an exclusive interview, the NATO chief says that Moscow is investing heavily in modern warfare, which “lowers the threshold for Russia’s use of nuclear weapons.” He also gives his views on Trump and the Alliance.

Russland Tag des Sieges Militärparade in Moskau (Reuters/M. Shemetov)

DW: How is growing anti-Americanism affecting the image of NATO, which itself is perceived as an American-led organization?

Jens Stoltenberg: We have seen this kind of sentiment before during the war in Vietnam, later in Iraq in 2003. European allies and the US disagree on some issues, such as trade, climate change or the Iran nuclear deal. At the same time we have seen that NATO is able to unite around our core task to protect and defend each other. And that’s also the case now. We can see that the US is increasing its presence in Europe for the first time since the end of the Cold War.

Recent polls show that respondents in Europe have security concerns that did not exist a decade ago. According to a new study, Germans fear terrorism and political extremism the most. Do you see more or less support for NATO among the citizens of European countries?

We see increased support for NATO across Europe and the United States. We also see that NATO’s relevance is growing because of new challenges and threats.

US President Donald Trump has called the Alliance an obsolete organization. Most recently he said that the US pays for nearly the entire cost of NATO. How do you view Trump’s criticism?

It is true that Donald Trump said that NATO was obsolete before he became president. But when I later visited him in the White House, he said that NATO was no longer obsolete. The reality is that he actually aims to strengthen the trans-Atlantic bond and the US commitment to European security. He has partly recognized that European allies have started to invest more in defense, and that NATO is doing more in its fight against terrorism. Since Trump has become president, the funding for the US presence in Europe has increased by 40 percent.

Zhanna Nemtsova in an interview with Jens Stoltenberg (DW)DW’s Zhanna Nemtsova interview NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the development of new nuclear weapons during his state of the nation address. He said that the West has failed to contain Russia. Do you think that the weapons he showed really exist?

I won’t go into specifics describing what kind of intelligence about Russian weapons we have. But Moscow is developing new military capabilities, both conventional and nuclear, which lowers the threshold for Russia’s use of nuclear weapons in a potential conflict. This is extremely important to avoid. NATO is responding to this pattern by implementing the biggest reinforcement to our collective defense. We are increasing the readiness of forces and deploying troops to the eastern part of the Alliance – to the Baltic countries and Poland, as well as the Black Sea region. We want to send a clear message to any potential adversaries that NATO is there to protect all allies against any threat. The main reason why we do this is not to provoke any conflict, but to preserve the peace.

So you don’t have any specific response to the new challenges presented by Putin?

We’re not responding tank for tank, or missile for missile, or nuclear weapon for nuclear weapon. But of course we need to make sure that NATO adapts when we see a more assertive Russia investing heavily in new modern equipment and willing to use military force against its neighbors. We saw it in Georgia, we see it in Ukraine. Moscow also has troops in Moldova without the consent of the government in Moldova. This is a pattern which has developed over years and needs a response. We don’t want a new Cold War. We don’t want a new arms race and don’t want to isolate Russia. Russia is our neighbor, Russia is there to stay. So for NATO, this is about the balance, combining what we call “defense and dialogue.”

You have mentioned Georgia and Ukraine. Do you think they have real chances of joining NATO?

We support their aspirations for moving towards trans-Atlantic integration. The question of membership will be decided by 29 NATO allies together with these two countries. It’s not for anyone else to try to interfere with or veto this process. It is absolutely unacceptable that big powers like Russia try to re-establish their spheres of influence by deciding what their neighbors should do.


Erdogan Wins Another Term as Turkey’s President

Constitutional changes, which took effect with Sunday’s election, give leader expanded executive powers over legislation, judiciary

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won national elections Sunday.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won national elections Sunday. PHOTO: BULENT KILIC/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

ANKARA, Turkey—Voters extended President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 15-year hold on power and endorsed his increasingly authoritarian model of government in one of Washington’s most important but often defiant NATO allies.

With 98% of ballots counted, Mr. Erdogan had secured 52.5% of the vote, which would eliminate the need for a runoff, state-run news agency Anadolu reported. His nearest opponent, Muharrem Ince, a lawmaker from the secular Republican People’s Party, garnered 30.8%.

Mr. Erdogan’s party and alliance partner garnered 53.6% of the vote in legislative elections, allowing the president to also maintain control of Parliament, Anadolu reported.

“The nation has given me the duty as president,” the 64-year-old Mr. Erdogan said in a victory speech from Istanbul. In Ankara, drivers honked their horns and supporters waved Turkish flags along the main boulevards of the capital. He had campaigned on his motto that “a great Turkey needs a strong leader.”

An unusually united opposition, however, said numbers released by Anadolu were manipulated, suggesting further tension and uncertainty in the strategic linchpin between the West and the Middle East.

Muharrem Ince was a leading challenger in Sunday’s election to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Muharrem Ince was a leading challenger in Sunday’s election to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. PHOTO: TOLGA ADANALI/DEPO PHOTOS/ZUMA PRESS

Forces that are far apart on the political spectrum—the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, the newly created nationalist Good Party and the pro-Islam Felicity Party—joined to oppose Mr. Erdogan.

Mr. Ince galvanized large crowds of supporters across the country. After Mr. Erdogan mocked him as “the poor guy” CHP lined up, his rival said he was indeed the son of a poor truck driver, adding: “It is better to be poor than to earn dirty money.” When Mr. Erdogan proposed building libraries with free tea and cakes, Mr. Ince said “If you want to eat free cakes, vote for Mr. Erdogan, if you want factory jobs, vote for me.”

Mr. Erdogan has been running the nation of 80 million under emergency rule he instituted after a failed coup in 2016.

Constitutional changes, approved by voters last year and which will now take effect, give him vastly expanded executive powers over legislation and the judiciary in his new, five-year term.

With a majority in Parliament, he will have unprecedented control over a state apparatus he has purged of tens of thousands of civil servants he suspects have had sympathy with coup plotters.

Legislative GripPresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan will control parliament thanks to an alliance with the NationalistMovement Party.Projected share of parliamentary seats*Source: Turkey’s Anadolu news agency*98.8% of votes counted
Erdogan’s Justice and Development PartyNationalist Movement PartyPeoples’ Democratic PartyRepublican People’s PartyGood PartyShare0%255075100

The CHP, which had deployed tens of thousands of supporters and created special cellphone apps to collate results independently from the electoral board, said that under its count, Mr. Ince had qualified for a runoff against Mr. Erdogan.

Supporters of Mr. Erdogan “shouldn’t celebrate,” said Bulent Tezcan, the CHP’s vice chairman and spokesman. “We will work all night, until the results are right.”

Under the state of emergency, the opposition’s options are limited.

In a Twitter post, Mr. Ince said he planned to comment on the results at a press conference at noon on Monday.

Turkish television showed police installing roadblocks around the building of the election board in Ankara in anticipation of possible protests.

Officials at Mr. Erdogan’s Justice & Development Party, or AKP, said balloting had been fair.

“As the ruling party, we have ensured that not only our votes but all the votes were accounted for,” AKP spokesman Mahir Unal said. “It’s our duty.”

The election board didn’t release figures but said Mr. Erdogan had won “an absolute majority.” A complete vote count is expected to be released on Monday, with official results later in the week.

Mr. Erdogan’s first steps after the election will be closely watched by Western capitals: Turkey is helping Europe control a migrant influx, has repositioned itself as a power broker in the Syrian war and is at loggerheads with Washington, its ally in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The results will also weigh on the nation’s economy as the Turkish lira drops: During the campaign, the president said he would continue to rely on investment in large infrastructure projects and a steady flow of cheap consumer credit to fuel high economic growth.

Some analysts said the strategy has made Turkey overly dependent on inflow of foreign investments, and could falter if the country is seen as a big political risk.

The lira, which has lost about a quarter of its value against the dollar since the start of the year, has suffered from the president’s pledge to play a bigger role in defining monetary policy.

“Turkey is like a spoiled child that hasn’t been punished,” said Atilla Yesilada, country analyst with Global Source Partners, a management consultancy.

This month, some of the political tensions between the U.S. and Turkey had appeared to ease when they said they had reached a tentative agreement on how to resolve a long-festering issue over the role of Kurdish fighters in Syria, whom Washington sees as allies in the fight against Islamic State, and Ankara regards as terrorists.

But the bilateral relationship has soured over many flashpoints.

The U.S. is angry over Turkey’s decision to purchase an antimissile shield from Russia and Turkish authorities are stewing over the lack of action on their demand that the U.S. deport a cleric they say was behind the failed coup. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies the accusation.

Turkish-U. S. relations will be tested as soon as July 18, the date of a planned hearing in the trial of an American pastor detained in Turkey on accusations he colluded with coup plotters and Kurdish terrorists. The pastor, Andrew Brunson, denies the accusations.

Members of the U.S. Congress have labeled the detention of the Presbyterian minister “hostage taking,” and threatened sanctions, including an embargo on deliveries of advanced F-35 jet fighters to Turkey, if he wasn’t released quickly. Turkish authorities say the charges, which Mr. Brunson denies, are serious.

Mr. Erdogan called the vote in late April despite the fact that elections weren’t due until the end of 2019, catching the country and rival contenders off guard.

For weeks, he campaigned with little apparent competition, unveiling planned construction projects, including a 25-mile canal parallel to the Bosporus and announcing a $6 billion package comprising a tax amnesty and special allowances for retirees.

Among supporters of the opposition, Mr. Ince’s energetic campaign fueled hopes in opposition ranks that an alternative to Mr. Erdogan was possible.

“I am surprised,” said Mehmet Asil Yilmaz, a 24-year-old university graduate who spent the evening at CHP headquarters in Ankara to follow the results. “I really thought Mr. Ince would at least qualify for a runoff and have a go at the presidency.”

When he cast his vote in Istanbul on Sunday, Mr. Erdogan was greeted with chants and applause.

“Stand upright, the nation is by your side,” a crowd of supporters chanted in unison as they gathered near the school, which was being used as a polling station.

Among them, Beytullah Altinogullari, a 30-year old construction worker, said he had voted for Mr. Erdogan because, although the economy wasn’t doing well, the president was entirely devoted to his task.

“He’s the captain of Turkey,” he said.

Write to David Gauthier-Villars at and Yeliz Candemir at

courtesy: wsj

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