President Trump is spending the week in Europe, first visiting Poland, then attending the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, and then he heads back across the Atlantic again next week to attend a Bastille Day parade in Paris at the invitation of new French President Emmanuel Macron.
This trip comes at a very interesting time, and the agenda will be a full one, including European security, Syria, the Paris climate deal, Russia, immigration and terrorism.
And if that wasn’t enough, North Korea fired on July 4 a long-range missile that reportedly can reach Alaska, putting the East Asian crisis at the very top of the agenda.
For all that, the G-20 gathering offers President Trump his best opportunity yet to reaffirm America’s commitment to NATO, privately in one-on-one conversations and publicly at a press conference. He should specifically support our Article V commitment — “An attack against one is an attack against all” — to put at ease questioning minds across the continent.
Mr. Trump has long been keen to pressure NATO members to meet their promised level of national defense spending, which many NATO members have not taken seriously for years. In Brussels in May, the president pointedly noted that all but five of NATO’s members are failing to meet their 2 percent of GDP defense spending benchmark.
At the time, he said, “Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats. If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism.”
Previous U.S. presidents have also expressed the same concern, but Mr. Trump has made his concerns public, repeating them relentlessly.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that Europe’s NATO allies and Canada will jointly raise defense spending by 4.3 percent in 2017, totaling over $12 billion this year.
In 2016 the U.S., Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia all met the threshold. Romania will meet it by the end of 2017, and Latvia and Lithuania, Baltic states who are deeply worried about Russian aggression, will meet the target by the end of 2018.
Syria is a crucial topic that will be discussed as coalition fighters are retaking the Islamic State capital of Raqqa as this is being written. The military effort to defeat ISIS has made significant gains this year, and the time may now be right to discuss a larger political solution to end the civil war in Syria.
The Paris climate accord is popular in Europe, and with both European and world leaders. President Trump’s decision to withdraw, which he defended as a promise he made as a candidate and as being in America’s economic interest, will face stiff resistance in Hamburg, particularly from summit host German President Angela Merkel. In Germany Ms. Merkel faces an uncertain re-election later this year, and how to deal with Mr. Trump is a central issue in the campaign. However, G-20 nations Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia and Indonesia have also raised concerns about the Paris accord and may not fully enforce it in their own nations.
Even with such a packed agenda, all eyes will understandably be on Friday’s bilateral meeting between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — their first face-to-face meeting.
I agree with those who say Mr. Trump should raise the issue of Russia’s meddling in the election with Mr. Putin, whatever the political diplomatic costs to a successful meeting. Congress is advancing a package of economic sanctions against Russia for its campaign to intervene in our election, and Mr. Trump should stand up for our democracy.
But he also wants to improve relations with the Kremlin on other fronts, and he may seek to do this by waiting to raise issues where deep disputes exist.
Mr. Putin will almost certainly oppose any effort to exile his ally, Syrian President Bashir Assad, but the U.S. should hold to its demand that Mr. Assad must go as part of any deal to end the civil war.
The G-20, which lasts just two days, should be a fascinating event, as Mr. Trump meets Mr. Putin for the first time and holds other key meetings on pressing issues around the globe. There are disagreements about many issues, from energy and the environment to immigration and the economy.
The time is short, but the stakes are high for Mr. Trump.
— Matt Mackowiak is the president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. He is the host of a new national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” produced in partnership with The Washington Times. His podcast may be found at washingtontimes.com/mackonpolitics.
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