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What NATO Needs from Trump

As Donald Trump’s first foreign trip as president proceeds, the turmoil generated by his firing of FBI Director James Comey and the ongoing inquiry into his election campaign’s ties with Russia are following him. Nowhere will the events in Washington weigh more heavily than in Brussels, where Trump will meet with NATO leaders.

WASHINGTON, DC – As Donald Trump’s first foreign trip as president proceeds, the turmoil generated by his firing of FBI Director James Comey and the ongoing inquiry into his election campaign’s ties with Russia are following him. In none of the places he will visit will the events in Washington weigh more heavily than in Brussels, where he will meet with NATO leaders. Those American allies will be hoping for two things from Trump: reassurance that he is aware of the basic facts of European affairs, and signs that he is prepared to exercise the kind of leadership that NATO needs now.

The threat posed by Russia is the main feature of European international relations today. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic regime has sent troops into one former Soviet republic, Georgia; invaded and occupied part of a second, Ukraine; and harassed and tried to intimidate three others – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (all three of them NATO members). As during the Cold War, European democracies are counting on NATO to protect them from danger from the east.

Europeans were relieved to hear Trump abandon his assertion, during his election campaign, that NATO has become obsolete. But they still worry about what they, and the rest of the world, have learned about his dealings with Russian officials, particularly his chummy session in the Oval Office with Russia’s foreign minister and its ambassador to the United States.

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