Today is another meeting of NATO, an organization Trump has denounced and undermined for years. The keenest minds in what remains of the free world have set themselves to the task of distracting Trump long enough to get through the NATO summit without dissolving the alliance in a tantrum. The Washington Post detailed the efforts leading up to the summit. The plans include flattering Trump with an elaborate dinner at Buckingham Palace, and presenting a series of trumped-up concessions to make it appear the allies have buckled to Trump’s demands by increasing their spending, thereby allowing him to claim victory rather than storming out in a huff.
The plans include “a largely symbolic concession from Germany to save U.S. cash by spending more to pay to keep NATO’s lights on — which diplomats hope Trump will seize as a victory out of proportion with its size,” and a presentation on defense spending increases cleverly cropped to make it look like they began in 2016. (Diplomats are comfortable just blurting this out to a major newspaper because they know Trump does not read articles.) The whole trick is to choreograph an elaborate ruse in which Trump will believe he forced the allies to submit to his will and won.
Amusingly, what seems to have worked instead is Emmanuel Macron’s completely different ploy. The French president gave an interview last month decrying the “brain death” of NATO, which he said had failed to account for America’s shrinking commitment under Trump.
Trump himself has called NATO “obsolete,” openly questioned whether the U.S. would come to the defense of allies under attack (the very foundation of the alliance), and privately told aides on several occasions last year he wants to withdraw from the alliance. But the notion that somebody else would question NATO, and blame its demise on Trump, has enraged him.
And now Trump is lashing out at Macron. “NATO serves a great purpose,” he declared today. “And I hear that President Macron said NATO is ‘brain dead.’ I think that’s very insulting to a lot of different forces … When you make a statement like that, that is a very, very nasty statement to 28 — including them — 28 countries.”
Manipulating children into doing what you want by pretending to demand they do the opposite thing is a trick most parents learn to use. It usually stops working around the age of 5.