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Trump’s European Tour: An American Embarrassment

By Lery Hiciano

Rabat - Donald Trump met with NATO allies in Brussels, Belgium for the first time yesterday. By all measurements, the meeting with the organization he had called “obsolete” on the campaign trailer went poorly for the American president, serving as another stage from which to embarrass his country.

The first faux pas occurred during Trump's face-to-face meeting with Emmanuel Macron, the newly-elected French president. Trump’s attempt at his signature vice-grip handshake failed as Macron returned the favor with an extremely tight grip of his own. The handshake appeared awkward and uncomfortable, as the men took too long to separate, with both having clenched jaws and white knuckles. Trump twice attempted at letting go of Macron’s hand, only for Macron to maintain his grip. Both men spoke in English, and often-criticized White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated that “they had good chemistry.”

Later, while the NATO heads of state were preparing for a photograph together, Trump forced his way to the front of the picture, in the process aggressively pushing Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic. This was viewed by some in American media as an allegory for Trump’s disregard for those which the United States has pledged to protect. Montenegro is NATO’s newest member, formally joining the alliance next month as Eastern European nations grow warier of an aggressive Russia to their east. Montenegro’s decision to join NATO was controversial within the small Balkan country, as the government has accused two leaders of the Democratic Front, a coalition against the decision to join NATO, of attempting a coup. Furthermore, Montenegrin officials have accused Russia of plotting an assassination attempt against former pro-west Prime Minister Milo ?ukanovi?.

At a later point, Macron snubbed Trump as he skipped the American president’s handshake and instead went to give a warm hug to Germany’s Angela Merkel.

However, the centerpiece to the meeting was Trump’s speech in front of NATO’s newest headquarters. The speech was delivered in front of the new memorial to New City City terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Trump railed against his fellow leaders for what not contributing their fair share to the alliance in a misinterpretation of NATO agreements

Trump stated, “Members of the alliance must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.” He later added, “Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.” Trump was refering to a 2014 agreement amongst NATO members to increase defense spending to 2% of their GDP. However, this defense spending was for their own defenses and militaries, not money that is owed to the alliance itself.

His criticism continues to call into doubt the United States’ commitment to Article 5, which guarantees military action in the service of any nation within the alliance. Article 5 has only been invoked once, on behalf of the United States, after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. European leaders had waited nervously for Trump to maintain the US' commitment to the treaty and to their defense, especially as Russia looms large, but Trump never formally did. Going forward, it is unclear how committed the United States is to defending its European allies, which might embolden Russia to strike at their borders.

Trump will continue his tour of Europe with a meeting of the G7 countries today in Italy.

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