ROBERT COSTA: Let’s talk about the president’s foreign trip, which was supposed to be the major story for the White House this week. Overall, no major incidents, except for Mr. Trump’s rather blunt address to NATO allies. As NATO leaders gathered in Brussels, much of the spotlight was on President Trump. The president scolded leaders who stood just a few feet away. And he acknowledged America’s commitment to Article 5, which states that an attack on one ally is an attack on all, but he would not endorse it. Peter, the president seems to be implying that the U.S. won’t abide by Article 5 unless some of these countries pay more in dues.
MR. BAKER: Yeah. Look, this – you wouldn’t normally have to have a president make an affirmative commitment to Article 5. It should be gone without saying. It’s not without saying in this case because he raised that very question last year during the campaign. He gave an interview to my colleagues at the Times and said that he would defend those allies who paid up, who were part of – you know, contributed enough financially. Well, that’s not a commitment to full defense, especially given, as he said, that 23 of the 28 haven’t pulled up – paid up.
But he’s mischaracterizing the situation here. He says this as if they owe money, as if the United States was somehow owed money and that they hadn’t paid dues. That’s not the way it works. What we’re talking about here is a commitment that NATO members had made starting in 2006, renewed in 2014, to spend about 2 percent of their economy, their GDP, on defense. All right, about five countries do that. The United States does that, a few others. The rest don’t.
But there’s no dues that they owe at this point. They haven’t lived up to that goal, but it’s not a legally binding requirement. He makes it sound like somehow the United States has been shafted. And that fits into his “America first” kind of message to his own people back home. It didn’t go over well with the Europeans, though. What they wanted to hear were the words: Article 5 – I support Article 5. The president knew that. He chose not to say it.
MR. COSTA: It wasn’t just about the policy, Vivian. The images coming out of this summit in Europe were striking. The most – the thing that went viral online was when the president seemed to push Prime Minister Markovic of Montenegro on Thursday. And then had this white-knuckle handshake with the new French president. What did that tell us about this outsider president making his way abroad?
MS. SALAMA: They’re not going to embrace him the way that maybe he received a warm welcome in Saudi or in Israel on the first part of his trip. He has a tough crowd that he has to answer to in Europe. And even though they are our closest allies, they’re not going to sort of allow him to carry on with his insults and his criticism in the way that he has been. One of the most striking moments to me was during the speech that Peter was just talking about. At the end, where he jabbed them for not asking how much the new NATO center costs. He said, I won’t even ask how much that cost. And world leaders literally started snickering in the middle of his speech, because it was such a bold statement that he made. And so there were so many incidents like that.
MR. COSTA: And he’s not lining up with them on the climate as well. They’re pushing for the Paris agreement. The pope even gave the president an encyclical encouraging climate change action.
MS. SALAMA: Absolutely. And they made it clear that even the policies were not going to be in line with each other, then they’re going – he’s going to face a tough crowd, and they’re going to push back on him. I think that President Trump here has been used to maybe criticism, but he’s been such an outspoken voice that I think it’s – he feels like maybe he can dominate the world stage. Also, with regard to Theresa May being there, I think he thought that she was going to be a close ally, someone who was against – you know, wanted to withdraw from the European Union and was really – had a lot of similarities in terms of policy views. But she has made it clear that she’s going to take a tough stance on Russia, that she supports NATO, and all these others things that he thought they would be kind of in line with.