With tough medicine, NATO needs some sugar from Trump

At a critical moment, president Donald Trump addressed the leaders of America’s NATO allies in Brussels, Belgium. Returning to a central point of his foreign policy doctrine, Trump demanded that the rest of the alliance shoulder considerably more of its budgetary burden relative to the United States.

He was right to do so, although not, he made it appear, for the correct reasons. It’s essential that NATO’s member states meet — and exceed — their current spending obligations. But for now, at least, Trump is making it all too hard for them to get there.

Trump’s European worries are nothing new. His initial interest in warmer relations with Russia put off allies on the Continent, who have cast a wary eye on Putin’s activities from the Baltics to the Balkans.

The ongoing drama surrounding the investigation into Russia’s degree of interference in the presidential campaign has fueled a sense of dismay that only abated slightly when Marine Le Pen, who had also received praise from Trump, lost out to France’s young and untested new president, Emmanuel Macron.

But, above all, it was candidate Trump’s early description of NATO itself as “obsolete” — a distilled-down combination of American fears and grievances on the nationalist right and populist left — that stuck with European leaders. The White House made some moves to mitigate the damage left by that remark, but as it also failed to stop repeated leaks to the press concerning intelligence gathered by U.S. allies, officials didn’t, or couldn’t,…

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