Nato leaders call for unity as spat unfolds at summit

Insults flew at a Nato summit in London, where US President Donald Trump was at the heart of several spats. But the alliance deemed it a success.
This video screengrab from a reception for Nato leaders at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday shows (from left) Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johns
This video screengrab from a reception for Nato leaders at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday shows (from left) Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a huddle. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Trump brands Trudeau 'two-faced' after video captures gossip about him

WATFORD (Britain) • While Nato leaders professed unity yesterday at a summit near London, a spat rippled under the surface after several were caught in an unguarded exchange on camera apparently gossiping about US President Donald Trump's behaviour.

Mr Trump branded Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "two-faced" after the remarks captured during a reception at Buckingham Palace were posted online.

Mr Trudeau is seen standing in a huddle with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Britain's Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, at Tuesday evening's event.

After Mr Johnson asked Mr Macron, "Is that why you were late?", Mr Trudeau could be heard saying, "He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top."

That appeared to be a reference to Mr Trump's long and unscheduled question-and-answer session with journalists earlier on Tuesday.

Mr Trudeau also said: "You just watched his team's jaws drop to the floor."

Mr Trump was not mentioned by name during the exchange.

Footage of the palace reception was recorded by a pool camera. The clip was posted online by Canadian broadcaster CBC and has been viewed over five million times.

Mr Trump said yesterday that Mr Trudeau was most likely upset that the United States President had broached the fact that Canada falls short of the Nato target of spending 2 per cent of its gross domestic product on defence.

"Well he's two-faced," Mr Trump told reporters yesterday. "And honestly, with Trudeau, he's a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy but you know the truth is that I called him out on the fact that he's not paying 2 per cent and I guess he's not very happy about it."

The leaders of the 29 Nato states are marking the 70th anniversary of the military alliance - and trying to patch up differences over defence spending, the alliance's strategic direction and member nation Turkey's military action in northern Syria.

Nato leaders said they have agreed to set up a committee of experts to analyse political decision-making after Mr Macron lamented the "brain death" of the alliance.

After the summit, the leaders agreed in a communique yesterday to "a forward-looking reflection process" to be led by Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg.

The leaders of the 29 Nato states are marking the 70th anniversary of the military alliance - and trying to patch up differences over defence spending, the alliance's strategic direction and member nation Turkey's military action in northern Syria.

Germany and France suggested ways to address the issue after Mr Macron complained about Mr Trump's decision to pull troops out of northern Syria. Turkey had seen the move as an opening to invade.

Neither country consulted its Nato allies.

Whatever friction exists between Mr Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was not on display yesterday as they expressed optimism about trade talks between the US and the European Union. Dr Merkel said there is a good basis for resuming trade talks because a new team of EU leaders has taken office.

Mr Trump said the trade deal with the EU is one of the more "difficult deals" for the US, but that meetings have been set up and he believes something will be worked out for everyone.

Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will not get involved in an arms race with Nato, even if the alliance increases its military spending.

Mr Stoltenberg has said that European allies and Canada have added US$130 billion (S$177 billion) to their defence spending since 2016. Mr Peskov said yesterday Nato's increased military spending reinforces the Kremlin's concerns.

Mr Trump, known for his penchant for holding impromptu news conferences at the beginning of his meetings with other leaders, cancelled his scheduled press conference at the end of the summit yesterday, saying he had briefed the media many times during his trip.

ASSOCIATED PRESS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2019, with the headline 'Nato leaders call for unity as spat unfolds at summit'. Print Edition | Subscribe