As he was leaving the NATO meeting in Brussels, Trump held a press conference and said this:
We really accomplished a lot with respect to NATO…Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment. They’re going to up it at levels that they’ve never thought of before.
Prior to last year where I attended my first meeting, it was going down, the amount of money being spent by countries was going down – and down very substantially – and now it’s going up very substantially.
That breaks down into two statements and two blatant lies. It’s important to keep in mind that, after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, members of NATO agreed to increase their defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2024. Rather than going down prior to Trump’s first NATO meeting, here’s what that looked like:
That covers the second lie. With respect to the first one about NATO countries agreeing to substantially raise their commitment, here are some of the responses from heads of state as reported by the Associated Press:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel…said that U.S. President Donald Trump raised the topic of better burden-sharing among NATO members again, “as has been discussed for months,” and that, “we made clear that we’re on the way.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has denied President Donald Trump’s claim that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending beyond 2 percent of gross domestic product. Macron said: “There is a communique that was published yesterday. It’s very detailed.” He added: “It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That’s all.”
Romania will spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense…He denied that the U.S. President Donald Trump had been aggressive in his demands to make members up their spending.
In other words, NATO member nations have been increasing their defense spending, as they agreed to in 2014, in order to reach the 2 percent level by 2024. They will continue on that course. So nothing has changed.
Let me take you through my stream-of-consciousness reaction to this news. The first thing I thought was “Trump lied.” That’s hardly breaking news. It simply underscores that we can never believe anything he says.
Secondly, I thought about how he went into this NATO meeting with guns blazing, saying that Germany was controlled by Russia, calling for member nations to up their defense spending to 4 percent and threatening to withdraw from NATO if every European democracy did not succeed in passing drastic budgetary changes by the end of the year. It sure looked like he was ready to blow the whole thing up. But for Trump, this was actually a conciliatory ending, which he summarized by saying “it all came together at the end.”
So then I wonder, what the hell happened? Did the president’s advisers finally get through to him and convince him to ratchet things down? Did NATO leaders have some leverage they used to get him to back down? Did he actually lack the courage to follow through when push came to shove? Did he hit the depressive side of his bipolar affliction?
That’s when I realize that this is all a fools game. All we’ve really know is that this president is a loose cannon and that we can never believe anything he says. That’s not breaking news. We’ve known that for over two years now, but I refuse to pass that reality off as anything other than shocking.