Sixteen Former Foreign Ministers Send Letter to Trump Calling for Unity at NATO Summit Albright and 15 other former foreign ministers from around the world are urging President Donald Trump to shore up America’s “deteriorating relationship” with its Western allies , while warning him that it would be a “grave mistake” to ignore the threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

But, in a letter sent to Trump on Monday, the diplomatic veterans also praise the president, saying, for example, that he should “take some credit” for spurring other NATO states to boost defense spending.

The former foreign ministers — who hail from countries such as Britain, New Zealand and Bulgaria — offered their views just ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Brussels and Trump’s July 16 summit with the Russian president in Helsinki.

The letter’s mere existence underscores the depth of trans-Atlantic anxiety over Trump, who has belittled America’s European allies even as he seeks the favor of Putin at a time when Russia is menacing its Western neighbors.

The mood in Europe is one of “both fear and confusion,” Albright, secretary of state during the Clinton administration, told POLITICO. “It’s been a very, very long time that I have seen such concern about what is going on and trying to read where the United States is….”

In a pair of Monday tweets, Trump acknowledged that NATO members are upping their military spending but insisted “they must do much more.” “NATO benefits Europe far more than it does the U.S.” Trump asserted.

Trump has also been cagey about whether he believes in the NATO principle of collective defense – the notion that an attack on one NATO member will be viewed as an attack on all 29 of them. But at other times he has praised the alliance and said he is fully committed to it.

The contradictory messages are deeply frustrating to European leaders who are unaccustomed to having bedrock principles questioned.

They really do not understand what Trump wants,” Albright said.

[Excerpts from letter to Donald Trump by sixteen former foreign ministers]

We are a group of former foreign ministers who meet regularly to discuss threats to international security and prosperity. We are gravely concerned about the deteriorating relationship between the United States and its Western allies. We are writing to you now, ahead of the NATO Summit and your meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to underscore the need to reverse this dangerous trend. The Atlantic alliance was forged seven decades ago with strong support from the United States, which saw Europe not as a rival but as a vital partner in building a more prosperous and secure future….

All of NATO’s members benefit from their participation in the Alliance, but the United States is the only country for whom its provision for collective defense has been invoked, which happened after September 11, 2001. For more than 15 years, NATO has led military and training missions in Afghanistan, helping to bring some measure of stability to the country that served as the launching pad for the 9/11 attacks. Afghanistan has been the scene of the longest, most complex and most expensive operation in NATO’s history, with all members and many non-NATO partners contributing troops, equipment, and assistance, thereby reducing the burden on the United States.

As the world’s leading power and most capable military, the United States has always played an outsized role within the alliance. Its global power has been enhanced by being able to position troops in Europe, and to call upon allied capabilities when needed. But over time, the gap between American and European defense investment has put the long-term health of the alliance at risk. You have rightfully expressed concern, as your predecessors did, about this disparity. But now, alliance members have responded….

This week’s NATO Summit in Brussels is an opportunity for you to highlight this progress and take some credit for spurring European countries to spend more on defense. There are also important plans which are set to be announced that will significantly boost the Alliance’s readiness and capabilities, complementing the significant investments your administration has already made through the European Defense Initiative. It is vital that leaders on both sides of the Atlantic embrace these proposals and send a message of unity and strength.

Image: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, September 3, 2014 (photo: Department of State)