As Hastings Ismay, NATO’s first secretary-general, famously put it, the alliance’s purpose in Europe was to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down. By all indications, U.S. President Donald Trump, who arrived in Brussels yesterday for his second NATO summit, is dead set on reversing all three elements of Ismay’s formula.
Having already proposed that Russia be invited back into the Group of Seven forum of advanced economies, it would surprise no one at this point if Trump suggests that Russia play a greater role in European security when he meets President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki just after the NATO conclave.
Trump has also made no secret of the fact that he considers NATO an unfair financial burden on the U.S. and is reportedly considering significantly downsizing the U.S. military footprint in Europe. All the while, he has very publicly hectored Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel to spend more on defense and revitalize its fraying military.