NATO leaders meet as divisions threaten military alliance

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the leaders of the 29-member military alliance in London on Wednesday, as the uneasy allies met to celebrate the organization's 70th anniversary.

Following a tense start to the two-day summit on Tuesday — marked by clashes between US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron — leaders are due to focus on current and future threats.

Main takeaways so far:

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson emphasized unity upon arriving at the summit, saying: "There is much more than unites us than divides us."
  • Stoltenberg said he was "confident" that a solution can be found with Turkey, which has threatened to block new defense plans for the Baltic states if NATO does not recognize Kurdish groups in northern Syria as terrorists.
  • DW's Teri Schultz notes that due to simmering tensions and Trump's unpredictability, "the standards are not very high" for today's summit. It's been scaled back to a three-hour meeting and with a final group statement already prepared and agreed.

What happened Tuesday? The first day of the summit was marked by a series of tense bilateral meetings and press conferences in London, including contentious meetings with Trump. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also met for high-stakes talks with Macron, Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel following Turkey's offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

Queen Elizabeth II held a lavish reception for leaders at Buckingham Palace in the evening — where several leaders were caught on camera talking about Trump's long-winded remarks to reporters during bilateral talks.

The video shows Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joking with Macron about the press conferences, with Trudeau saying: "You just watched his team's jaw drop to the floor."

Macron and Trump trade barbs: Trump kicked off the summit by criticizing his French counterpart for saying that NATO was "brain dead." He called the French leader's remark "nasty" and said he could imagine France leaving NATO. He later softened his stance during a bilateral meeting with Macron, although the French leader said he stood by his comments and criticized allies in the alliance for having differing views on what constitutes "terrorism" — a not-so-veiled criticism of Turkey and the US.

NATO recognizes China's influence: NATO leaders are to raise concerns about China's growing influence for the first time in a joint leaders' declaration. The statement will recognize that China's rise "has security implications for all allies," NATO leader Stoltenberg said — including missiles that can reach the US and Europe.

Military spending: With Trump continuing to lash out at European allies over defense spending, the topic will weigh heavy during bilateral talks with the US leader on Wednesday. He has frequently called out Germany over spending, but might receive some pushback since Berlin has increased its defense budget. French President Macron has also urged for less of a focus on increasing spending and more attention to countering new military threats.

rs/rt (AP, dpa, AFP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.