In April, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will skip a semi-annual NATO summit to meet with China president Xi Jinping and Russia president Vladimir Putin later in the month. Jinping will visit the U.S. and have a talk with Trump and Tillerson during the summit.
At the time, Tillerson will be at Trump’s luxury resort Mar-a-Lago to welcome Jinping. Later he will travel to Italy to attend the G7 summit and to Russia, according to his office.
Tillerson Adds More Fuel to Trump-NATO Drama
In the meantime, Tillerson will be replaced by deputy secretary Tom Shannon at the gathering of NATO foreign ministers on April 5-6 in Brussels. The State Department announced that the Secretary of State will meet with several of those NATO officials at the Global Counter ISIS Coalition gathering in Washington this week.
After these meetings, Tillerson will fly to Italy to attend the G7 and later to Russia. The change of plans comes amid a fresh scandal stirred by the President’s claim that Germany “owes vast sums of money to NATO”.
On the campaign trail, Trump often criticized the 60-year-old alliance for being “obsolete” and expressed doubt about whether the U.S. should intervene if Russia attacked one of its NATO allies. According to the organization’s mutual defense clause, all members of the pact should defend a member in case of attack. Trump was upset that not all NATO countries “have fulfilled their obligations to us”.
Senior Democratic officials criticized Tillerson’s move. They deemed the decision a “grave error” which could further erode the American public’s trust in the new administration and the alliance’s confidence in America. Some people may think the new administration is “too cozy” with Putin, Rep. Elliott Engel from the House Foreign Affairs Committee recently said.
Engel believes this is a clear sign the new administration has changed the country’s foreign policy, a change that would align the U.S. with Russia’s autocratic regime and distance the country from its western allies.
U.S. Sends Another ‘Terrible Message’ to NATO
Rep. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.) who serves on the House intelligence committee said in an interview that he truly hoped the news was not true.
We’ve already sent a terrible message to NATO,
The representative added that the Trump administration has so far failed to thank NATO for their help in Afghanistan and Iraq where NATO troops fought and died beside U.S. troops. Instead, the only message that got through was to “pay up”.
On Sunday, the German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen dismissed Trump’s claims that her country owes the alliance “vast sums of money.” Trump accused Germany and other NATO allies of owing money after they failed to meet the alliance’s defense spending targets.
Germany currently directs 1.2 percent of its GDP to NATO, but plans to hike its defense spending to 2 percent by 2024, as NATO requested. Currently, of the 28 members, just five meet NATO’s 2 percent defense spending target: the U.S., the U.K., Poland, Estonia, and Greece.
We are spending a tremendous amount in NATO and other people proportionately less. No good,
Trump tweeted during the presidential campaign.
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