Donald Trump's National Security Officials Pushed to Complete NATO Deal Without the President, Report Claims

In the lead-up to last month’s tense NATO summit meeting in Brussels, senior U.S. national security officials convinced the alliance's leaders to complete a deal before President Donald Trump arrived in Europe, according to reports.

Trump has been known to play a spoiler role in meetings with international allies. The annual G-7 summit, held in Canada in June, ended badly when Trump refused to sign the joint communiqué that the group’s members release each year.

Unlike the G-7 meeting, NATO summits are held sporadically. But the two are similar in that participants negotiate and sign a joint declaration or agreement. With this in mind, observers worried that Trump could blow up the NATO summit by refusing to cooperate with U.S. allies, as he did in Canada.

Instead of allowing that to happen, members of Trump’s own team pushed for NATO leaders to complete the agreement before the summit even began, The New York Times reported Thursday evening. Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, was among the top officials pushing for an early agreement.

Attendees usually hash out the details of NATO declarations at the end of the summit, but the alliance’s secretary-general, former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, reportedly gave the members a strict deadline for this year’s event, ordering the delegations to finish their negotiations five days before the summit would begin. Officials told the Times that the machinations signaled that people close to Trump were attempting to preserve traditional U.S. alliances even though the president has disparaged them with fiery rhetoric.

But Trump’s presence at the NATO summit was not without controversy. He accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of being a "captive of Russia" because of her country’s decision to purchase more natural gas from that nation. He called NATO members “delinquent” and railed against them for not devoting enough of their government budgets to defense. He also called for NATO members to start spending 4 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, even though members have agreed to increase defense spending to only 2 percent of GDP by 2024.

Nevertheless, the NATO summit did produce a joint communiqué that was signed by all attendees, including Trump. The statement’s language was traditional and pledged to “protect and defend our indivisible security, our freedom, and our common values, including individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.”

The document was signed days before Trump traveled to Helsinki, Finland, where he met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump, whose campaign team is under investigation for possible collaboration with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election, has consistently said he wants a more a positive relationship with Russia. But the NATO communiqué singled out Russia as a threat.

“Russia’s aggressive actions, including the threat and use of force to attain political goals, challenge the Alliance and are undermining Euro-Atlantic security and the rules-based international order,” the statement read.

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