LONDON – Quarrels over defense spending, fights about trade and climate policy, rifts over Turkey’s actions in Syria, and Iran – President Donald Trump is in London for NATO meetings connected to the military alliance’s 70th anniversary.
But the president’s visit to Britain’s capital may be overshadowed Tuesday by direct talks scheduled with France’s President Emmanuel Macron.
“Macron is seizing (the) moment, seeking to be disruptive in his own way, and so we will see how that works,” said Heather Conley, a foreign affairs expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
NATO comes to London:Cracks in alliance’s armor begin to show
Among Macron’s disruptions: Continuing to argue for the relevance of the Iran nuclear deal that Trump has withdrawn from; announcing at the end of August that Europe needed to seek a greater accommodation with Russia and China; and declaring in an interview in The Economist that NATO is experiencing “brain death,” a reference, in part to NATO member Turkey’s incursion into Kurdish-held Syria to root out fighters it considers terrorists but who had also been assisting U.S.-led forces battle the Islamic State group.
As Trump arrived in London on Tuesday night, the White House said it was considering imposing tariffs on up to $2.4 billion worth of French goods in response to that country’s new digital services tax targeting U.S. technology companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google.
The tariffs would affect French cheese, wines and handbags.
Trump has called the NATO gathering in London “one of the most important journeys that we make as president.” The official program starts Wednesday.
He started Tuesday by meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
In remarks to the press about Macron’s comments on NATO being “brain dead,” Trump said “NATO serves a great purpose” and, “I think that’s very insulting.”
He said that “nobody needs NATO more than France.”
He also lashed out at France for the digital services tax, saying that “if anyone was going to tax American companies it will be me.”
The impeachment inquiry has followed Trump to London.
“Just landed in the United Kingdom, heading to London for NATO meetings tomorrow. Prior to landing I read the Republicans Report on the Impeachment Hoax. Great job! Radical Left has NO CASE. Read the Transcripts. Shouldn’t even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?” the president tweeted after arriving at Stansted Airport outside London.
Sitting next to Stoltenberg, Trump said: “I did nothing wrong. You don’t censure somebody when they did nothing wrong.