Squabbles eclipses the summit of the 70th anniversary of NATO
WATFORD: NATO Leaders meet on Tuesday for a summit to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the alliance, but with leaders fighting and insulting for money and strategy, the atmosphere is far from festive.
The 29 allies will descend on London ready to lock horns over spending and how to deal with Russia in a major test of unity as NATO seeks to assert its relevance.
American president Donald Trump He arrived in London anxious to see evidence that European countries increased their military expenses, after repeatedly criticizing them for what they consider a free charge in the United States for their defense.
NATO officials hope a managed series of spending announcements by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Last week he will appease Trump, who put the 2018 summit on its head with furious protests against European partners.
Stoltenberg said Friday that by next year, non-US allies will have increased their defense expenses by $ 130 billion since 2016.
En route, Trump boasted that he had convinced European allies to boost their defence spending, tweeting: "Since I took office, the number of NATO allies fulfilling their obligations more than DOUBLED." There was also much fanfare around a billion-dollar contract signed last week with US planemaker Boeing to upgrade the organisation's AWACS reconnaissance planes.
NATO members have also agreed to lower the cap on US contributions to the alliance's relatively small $2.5 billion operating budget, meaning Germany and other European countries - but not France - will pay more.
Trump will have the opportunity to discuss the measures with Stoltenberg when they meet for breakfast on Tuesday, before speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron before a nightly reception at Buckingham Palace.
If Trump's saying about spending is familiar, a more dramatic dispute erupted in recent weeks after Macron despaired of the club's strategic direction, saying he is suffering brain death.
The comments irritated other leaders and provoked a rare public reprimand from the German chancellor. Angela Merkel .
And on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, furious at Western criticism of his military operation in northern Syria against the Kurds, responded with a personal attack on Macron.
"First of all, have your own brain death checked. These statements are suitable only to people like you who are in a state of brain death," Erdogan declared, insisting he would say the same again at NATO .
The French authorities summoned the Turkish envoy in Paris to complain, while a US administration official predicted that many members would board Turkey for the purchase of an S-400 Russian air defense system.
Macron and Erdogan will come face to face on Tuesday in a four-way meeting with Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose spokesman said he would be emphasising the need for NATO to be united.
We can see this as the story of three egos, said Amanda Sloat, a former senior diplomat and member of the Brookings Institution, warning that Trump, Macron and Erdogan were the figures to consider.
The summit also comes at an unexpectedly awkward moment for Johnson, with Britain in the middle of a frantic election campaign.
Normally, a summit like this would give the prime minister of the day a boost, but with Trump deeply unpopular among many British voters, his visit is a potential banana skin for Johnson.
The substance of the meeting is thin, with only one three-hour session planned, where leaders are expected to sign off on a set of decisions already taken by NATO foreign and defence ministers.
These include making space a complete domain of conflict, along with land, sea, air and cyberspace, as well as a new report on how the alliance should approach China and its growing international assertiveness.
What is likely to be more significant in the longer run is the fallout from Macron's broadside, in which he complained NATO talks too much about money and not enough about strategic priorities.
In response, Germany has suggested setting up an expert panel to look at how NATO can be adapted to address political questions more effectively.