As NATO’s 70th anniversary summit kicks off, member countries squabble

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump today shook
up a gathering of world leaders. Special correspondent Ryan Chilcote reports
on how strained relations across the Atlantic took center stage. RYAN CHILCOTE: President Trump arrived last
night in London for a NATO summit meant to celebrate the alliance’s 70th anniversary. Allies were hoping it wouldn’t descend into
chaos. Come this morning, those hopes were dashed. It was a day marred by acrimony between at
least three of NATO’s leading countries. At a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens
Stoltenberg, President Trump went first, uncharacteristically defending the alliance, while lashing out
at the president of France for having labeled NATO brain-dead in a recent interview. DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
Nobody needs NATO more than France. And, frankly, the one that benefits really
the least is the United States. RYAN CHILCOTE: The NATO chief listening on,
the president railed against what he sees as NATO countries freeloading on the back
of U.S. military spending, and repeatedly schooled his French counterpart, threatening
retaliation for a new French tax on American tech companies. DONALD TRUMP: That is a very — very, very
nasty statement. They’re starting to tax other people’s products,
so, therefore, we go and tax them, which is taking place right now on technology. And we’re doing their wines and everything
else. RYAN CHILCOTE: In early afternoon, the two
sat down for a tense tete-a-tete. President Macron didn’t back down. EMMANUEL MACRON, French President: I know
that my statements created some reactions and shake a little bit a lot of people. I do stand by it. And I have to say, when you look at what NATO
is and should be, first of all, this is a burden we share. RYAN CHILCOTE: The French president then took
a swipe at Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who in the lead-up to the meeting
called President Macron himself brain-dead. EMMANUEL MACRON: When I look at Turkey, they
now are fighting against those who fight with us, who fought with us. And, sometimes, they work with ISIS forces. RYAN CHILCOTE: ISIS was even a bone of contention
between the French and American presidents. DONALD TRUMP: Would you like some nice ISIS
fighters? I can give them to you. You can take — you can take everyone you
can. RYAN CHILCOTE: President Macron responded
sternly. EMMANUEL MACRON: Let’s be serious. RYAN CHILCOTE: And Trump shot back. DONALD TRUMP: That was one of the greatest
non-answers I have ever heard. RYAN CHILCOTE: Meantime, to round out the
roundhouse punching, before leaving for London, President Erdogan promised to block NATO plans
if the alliance doesn’t label the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG a terrorist group. It’s a U.S. partner in the fight against ISIS
and Turkey’s enemy in Syria. RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkish President (through
translator): If our friends at NATO do not recognize as terrorist organizations those
against whom we carry out fights against terrorism, then, excuse me, we will stand against any
that will be taken there. RYAN CHILCOTE: While the public spat between
other NATO leaders is unusual, President Trump’s unconventional demeanor with allies is not
new. Two years ago, at his first NATO meeting,
the president appeared to shove the prime minister of Montenegro. And, last year, he told NATO leaders that
if they didn’t spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, the U.S. would go it alone. DONALD TRUMP: But I’m not negotiating. RYAN CHILCOTE: In another veiled threat he
appeared to make today in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the president
suggested the U.S. wouldn’t necessarily defend NATO allies who don’t pay the 2 percent. DONALD TRUMP: And, you know, I’m going to
be discussing that today. RYAN CHILCOTE: White House officials say the
president’s combative approach to American allies is paying off. In 2016, just four of the 29 NATO countries
met the 2 percent threshold. Today, that number stands at nine. By 2024, the Trump administration says the
number will have risen to 18. At an event on the meeting’s sidelines, the
NATO chief, tasked with wrangling its headstrong leaders, praised the alliance, despite today’s
circular firing squad. JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO Secretary-General:
I’m a politician, and I’m used to be criticized for having good rhetoric, rhetorics, but bad
substance. NATO is the opposite. RYAN CHILCOTE: At a Buckingham Palace reception
hosted by the queen, NATO leaders had plenty to chew over. On the allies’ plates, disagreement too on
China. President Trump wants the alliance to take
a tougher stance on China and refrain from buying its 5G technology, but many of the
European allies oppose that idea. For a nightcap, an angelic holiday choir greeted
squabbling allies at 10 Downing Street, home to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who
hosted the leaders, at least three of whom didn’t go gently into that good night. JUDY WOODRUFF: And Ryan Chilcote joins me
now. Ryan, how unusual was it for President Trump
to criticize President Macron as he did? RYAN CHILCOTE: Well, I think it’s pretty unusual
in any circumstances, and particularly in this case, because, after all, you would kind
of expect President Trump to call NATO brain-dead. He’s been calling the alliance obsolete for
many years. What President Macron really meant when he
gave that interview a month ago and made that comment about NATO being brain-dead was that
European countries need to do more in terms of their own defense and that NATO — European
NATO countries can’t necessarily rely on the United States to come to their defense. Well, even today, President Trump intimated
that last point, that, if NATO countries weren’t paying their fair share, the U.S. might not
come to their defense. And he has always said that NATO countries,
European NATO countries should be spending more on it. So, I think that was pretty surprising. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, you know, Ryan, you have
obviously covered a number of NATO meetings over the years. How is this one different? RYAN CHILCOTE: Look, this is President Trump’s
third NATO summit. So if the other NATO leaders were surprised
by his unconventional approach to diplomacy in the past, they certainly weren’t this time. In fact, some NATO officials even told us
that the — this meeting was designed in a way to kind of keep everything scripted. As you know, obviously, President Trump went
off-script, but, again, not a huge surprise. What is different, I think, Judy, this time
is that we had a number over leaders squabbling amongst themselves. And I think that — if you were just listen
to the rhetoric kind of makes you think that maybe NATO itself is coming undone at the
seams, though, when it comes to policy, NATO is definitely very united. JUDY WOODRUFF: And finally, Ryan, what do
you look for tomorrow? RYAN CHILCOTE: Well, given all the division
that we had today, I will certainly be looking to see if we have any fireworks tomorrow,
more fireworks. The only fireworks that there should be would
be because this meeting is supposed to be celebrating NATO’s 70 years of unity. Beyond that, I will look at burden-sharing. President Trump was talking about it today. Actually, the conversation began many years
ago and really intensified after President Putin’s annexation of Crimea. I’m sure we will hear more about that tomorrow. China, the United States calls China a developing
threat. Not all of the NATO countries agree. And, finally, the president is having, well,
what you could say would be his fourth press conference after three today, a press conference
tomorrow that will begin just one half-hour after the impeachment hearing begins. So I think tomorrow might be another day when
we all have split-screen on our TV screens again — Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF: No question about it. Interesting timing. Ryan Chilcote, reporting from London, thank
you, Ryan. RYAN CHILCOTE: Thank you.

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