After watching the G7 train wreck aghast, senior officials at NATO headquarters are quaking in their boots at the prospect of hosting a summit of the Western defense alliance featuring a raging Donald Trump in Brussels.
Far from showcasing transatlantic unity and resolve, they fear the 24-hour gathering of leaders of the 29-nation alliance, scheduled for about a month from now, could turn into round 2 of the rumble in Quebec, with the U.S. president on the rampage against the Europeans and Canadians over their allegedly unfair trade surpluses and puny military spending, leaving NATO in tatters.
It is entirely legitimate for the United States to press NATO nations to pay more toward their own defense. But America needs like-minded friends and allies, and Trump cannot afford to go on treating them as rivals or threats to its security.
And yet … Just look at what happened in the aftermath of the G7. For the U.S. to withdraw its signature from an agreed joint statement of the world’s seven leading advanced economies is unprecedented. For its president to publicly accuse his host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, of being “very dishonest and weak” and his partners of robbing American workers is stunning.
Financial markets took the G7 shock in their stride, seemingly unfazed by the intrusion of reality TV tactics into global economic diplomacy. Despite the risk of a tit-for-tat trade war ignited by U.S. tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, with the threat of punitive levies on automobiles to come, many investors still believe Trump’s economic bark is worse than his bite.
However, a bust-up at the July 11-12 NATO summit could have more severe strategic implications, especially if it emboldens countries such as Russia, China or Iran to try to exploit Western divisions with potentially dangerous consequences for war and peace.
At stake is the future of an alliance that has preserved Western stability and prosperity for the last seven decades, but which Trump as a candidate has branded “obsolete.”