Analysis

US President Donald J. Trump on July 16 appeared to believe Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials over the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections, saying he saw “no reason why” Moscow would have acted in that way.

Speaking at a joint press conference following his first summit with Putin in Helsinki, Trump said: “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today” on meddling.
Just in the past few months, US President Donald J. Trump has blown up the G7 summit in Canada, berated the United States’ NATO allies, criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May on her handling of Brexit, described Germany as a “captive” of Russia, characterized the European Union as a “foe,” and directed the Pentagon to review the cost of withdrawing US troops from Europe.

In sharp contrast to remarks directed at US friends and allies, Trump has been reluctant to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin whom he has described as “fine.” Acting against the advice of his advisers, Trump went so far as to congratulate the Russian president on his victory in an election widely viewed as unfair. He even suggested that Russia be invited back to a G8—a grouping Russia was expelled from after it annexed Crimea in 2014. On July 16, Trump will meet Putin in Helsinki for the leaders’ first summit. The rest of the world will be watching anxiously.
Last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, after meeting US President Donald J. Trump at the NATO Summit in Brussels, “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over…We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.” That she said it on Memorial Day weekend—the day the United States honors veterans of World War II—seemed an especially sharp rebuke.

Worse than the rebuke was this: Merkel might not be wrong.
At the NATO summit four years ago, the allies declared their commitment to “reverse the trend of declining defense budgets, to make the most effective use of our funds and to further a more balanced sharing of costs and responsibilities.” To that end, the heads of state and government gathered in Wales that summer recommitted themselves to increasing defense spending in real terms and achieving the NATO guideline to spend a minimum of 2 percent of each member’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense by 2024. In the buildup to this July's NATO summit in Brussels, US President Donald J. Trump is both publicly and privately pushing the allies to live up to this commitment, which fewer than half NATO’s twenty-nine members have plans to achieve.

But what about the United States: Does the United States spend at least 2 percent of its national wealth on its commitment to European allies?
NATO must overcome two forms of discord—US-European and intra-European—in order to ensure the future health and effectiveness of the Alliance. It is not enough to hope for mere platitudes of unity at NATO’s summit in Brussels on July 11 and 12, sentiments that European leaders may not receive from the US president.

At last year’s “mini-summit,” US President Donald J. Trump publicly berated European allies for not spending 2 percent of GDP on defense—a goal that the allies agreed at their Wales Summit in 2014 to meet “within a decade.” This year, the path toward a successful summit appears equally unharmonious.
In a few days, US President Donald J. Trump will meet with his fellow heads of state and government from across the NATO alliance in Brussels, Belgium, and there is widespread concern that it will once again be a meeting where the United States is scornful of its allies and partners. Some even fear that this may be the beginning of the end of NATO and the bond between the United States and Europe. The flames have been fanned further by the recent G-7 meeting which ended in acrimony between the US president and the other leaders, the announced Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki a few days after the NATO summit, and whispers that the United States may pull its troops out of Germany in the coming years.
Few observers believe that the agreement signed between US President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 will result in North Korea actually giving up its nuclear weapons. But, oddly, some observers—not just the administration’s boosters—have praised the agreement anyway because they argue it makes peace more likely. The opposite is true: Trump and Kim’s rash and meaningless gesture has now made war more likely.
NATO’s July 11-12 summit in Brussels will be defined by two basic objectives: demonstrating political unity and resolve and advancing military readiness. The latter provides the means necessary to deter and defeat adversaries. Only with the former can this community of democracies fully leverage those capabilities. Both are critical to the effectiveness and long-viability of NATO, history’s most effective military alliance.
US President Donald J. Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, will hold their first summit in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, the White House announced on June 28.

The meeting will come days after the NATO Summit in Brussels and Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom. US National Security Advisor John Bolton has said that Russia’s alleged interference in 2016 US presidential election will be on the agenda. A Russian foreign ministry spokesman stated that the meeting would focus on Syria, Ukraine, and international terrorism.
The author and political thinker George Orwell was many things, but a soccer fan he was not.

In an essay titled “The Sporting Spirit,” written in 1945 during then-Soviet soccer club Dynamo Moscow’s Cold War British tour, Orwell called soccer “a game in which everyone gets hurt and every nation has its own style of play which seems unfair to foreigners.”

He then extrapolated that sport “is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules, and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.” Orwell recognized the political symbolism inherent in sport and resented it for being one of many drivers of the nationalism fueling international rivalry.

Today’s fans might disagree with Orwell’s joyless characterization of sport as “an unfailing cause of ill-will,” but there is no denying that this World Cup, set in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, is politically charged.


    

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