France’s Emmanuel Macron was first. Now President Donald Trump is feuding at a NATO summit in London with Canada’s Justin Trudeau, calling him “two-faced.”
But in keeping with his contrarian foreign policy approach, Trump told reporters Wednesday he thinks Turkey’s hardline leader, Recep Erdogan, is doing a “great job.”
Trump and Macron openly disagreed and bickered before reporters and TV cameras Tuesday for nearly 40 minutes in a wild scene that shook the first day of the alliance meeting. They let the world see their differences on the Islamic State, Erdogan’s military mission into Syria, Russia, trade disputes and even the proper role of NATO.
A Trump-Trudeau appearance before the two met privately Tuesday was much more tame — and shorter. But during that session, Trump openly chided Canada as “slightly delinquent” in meeting the pledge that NATO members devote 2 percent of their national spending on defense and military accounts.
“But they’ll be okay. I have confidence. Just slightly delinquent,” Trump said. “But, no, some are major delinquent. Some are … way below 1 percent, and that’s unacceptable. And then, if something happens, we’re supposed to protect them, and it’s not really fair. And it never has been fair.”
Trudeau said during the same question-and-answer session, after getting information from an aide sitting nearby, that his government is now spending 1.4 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. Trump said of that level, “I’m satisfied with it” — but that was before his “slightly delinquent” assessment, however.
Later Tuesday, during a reception for leaders at Buckingham Palace, came the moment Trump was asked about.
Trudeau, Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson were caught on a hot mic appeared to gossip and laugh about Trump’s antics earlier in the day.
Johnson is heard asking Macron, “Is that why you were late?” That’s when Trudeau pipes up with this: “He was late because he (Trump) takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.”
“I watched his team’s jaws drop on the floor,” Trudeau is heard adding.
Trump, who has clashed before with Trudeau over trade matters, did not hold back the next morning as he sat alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Well, he’s two-faced,” the American president said of his Canadian counterpart. “And, honestly, with Trudeau, he’s a nice guy, but the truth is I called him out on the fact he’s not paying 2 percent, and I guess he’s not happy about it.”
The White House had planned for Trump to wrap the NATO meeting with a news conference, but he appeared to pull the plug, saying he would head back to Washington after his final event because he has taken enough questions over the two days.
….When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington. We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days. Safe travels to all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2019
Trump had nothing but praise for Turkey’s Erdogan, who is facing hard questions and sharp criticism from his NATO counterparts in London.
The two met behind closed doors Wednesday, a meeting that was not listed on the version of Trump’s public schedule released Tuesday evening by the White House press office.
“I discussed everything with him,” Trump told reporters, contending safe zones Turkey and Russia have set up in northern Syria for Kurds there and a ceasefire “are working.”
“Maybe someday they’ll give me credit,” said Trump, who contends he struck a deal with Turkey, Russia and Syria that other American presidents lacked the courage to make.
“We have soldiers where the oil is, and that’s the way I like it,” said the U.S. leader even though energy analysts have told Roll Call that oil fields inside Syria produce very little product and don’t really affect the overall global supply.
“They can patrol their own border,” Trump said of Turkish forces. “That’s a border that’s been under siege for many many decades. It was time for us to leave.”
Republicans and Democratic lawmakers, however, disagree. Many want to slap stiff sanctions on Ankara for its military mission into Syria, which has killed many Kurds.
Yet, Trump remained defiant in London with his continued praise for Erdogan. As other Western leaders entered and stood together for a group photo during a reception Tuesday evening, the American president opted to enter the room and stand alongside Erdogan.
“A lot of people pay great respect for Turkey for the job they’ve done,” Trump said, without naming names. Erdogan has been, he said again, “doing a good job.”