July 14, 2024

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Europeans use NATO summit to build ties with Donald Trump’s followers

Europeans use NATO summit to build ties with Donald Trump’s followers

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European delegations attending a NATO leaders’ summit in Washington this week are meeting with President Donald Trump’s foreign policy aides, as tensions mount within the military alliance over President Joe Biden’s re-election prospects.

Biden is trailing in the polls and facing intense pressure to drop out of the White House race after a disastrous debate performance last month raised deep concerns in his party about his age and fitness for office.

Leaders, ministers and senior officials from multiple European governments, particularly those in Eastern Europe and the Nordics, have arranged meetings this week with Trump-linked figures such as Keith Kellogg, the former chief of staff at the National Security Council, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, people familiar with the outreach efforts told the Financial Times.

The meetings come on the sidelines of this week’s NATO summit, which was initially promoted as an opportunity for host Biden to present himself at the head of a united Western alliance but has now been overshadowed by calls from members of his own Democratic Party for him to abandon his re-election campaign.

Trump, an outspoken critic of NATO, has raised concerns in many European capitals with comments suggesting that if he wins the White House in November the United States may not defend all of its NATO allies. He has also raised the possibility of suspending military aid to Ukraine if Kiev rejects peace talks with Moscow.

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On Tuesday, Trump called on European countries to contribute about $100 billion to Ukraine in order to “match” American support for Kiev.

In a post on his Truth Social platform, Trump credited NATO for the current force, saying “billions of dollars” had flowed into the alliance after he urged members to contribute more. He added that NATO allies had not provided enough support for Ukraine.

“Now we have a similar problem. The US is paying most of the money to help Ukraine fight Russia. Europe should at least match it! They owe over $100 billion to do this. Corrupt Joe didn’t even ask them to do it,” he wrote.

European countries have collectively committed at least €102 billion to Ukraine since 2022, more than the US allocation of €74 billion, According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. The European Union agreed in February an additional support package worth €50 billion.

As the presidential election heats up, foreign embassies in Washington have increasingly focused on building relationships with a potential future Trump administration. Diplomats fear they could be surprised by his election victory in 2016.

“No matter what we think about their position, [on Europe]“We need to talk to them,” said one person familiar with Trump’s outreach efforts, adding that building contacts before November is now a reasonable approach.

Many diplomats and analysts looked to the America First Policy Institute, a pro-Trump think tank where Kellogg co-chairs its security program, for clues about how Trump might lead in a second term.

“We have had a series of meetings with a number of prime ministers, national security advisers, defence ministers, foreign ministers and ambassadors,” Kellogg said in a statement to the Financial Times.

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Kellogg and Fred Fleitz recently authored a report outlining an end to the war in Ukraine, which would pressure Kiev and Moscow to come to the negotiating table, and the report has caused a stir in Washington and European capitals.

In private conversations about the summit, several European officials expressed frustration at the way the election campaign had overshadowed NATO’s ambitions at the meeting, especially given their inability to influence a situation that could ultimately have a major impact on their future security.

“His future has overshadowed the whole week,” said one senior European diplomat, referring to Biden’s health and candidacy. “It’s chaos.”