Former Secretary of State John Kerry tore into President Trump’s comments at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s annual summit on Wednesday.
“I’ve never seen a president say anything as strange or counterproductive as President Trump’s harangue against NATO and Germany,” Kerry said in a scathing statement. “It was disgraceful, destructive, and flies in the face of actual American interests.”
Speaking before a breakfast with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Trump accused Germany of being held “captive” by Russia.
“Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” Trump said. “Because they will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline. And you tell me if that’s appropriate, because I think it’s not.”
Trump also decried U.S. allies for not contributing more to military spending and demanded that NATO double its stated goal of each country committing 2 percent of their gross domestic product to the defense budget by 2025. And he insisted that they pay 2 percent “immediately.”
“Many countries are not paying what they should,” Trump said. “And, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them.”
Those comments dismayed Kerry, who felt compelled to speak out in a prepared statement.
“Why would an American president whose first NATO meeting last year was a disaster, show up in Belgium this year just to prove he doesn’t understand how vital alliances have made a huge difference for the security of the United States and the lives of Europeans?” Kerry asked. “I’d think he might remember that it was NATO that stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States after 9/11, among many other contributions.”
Current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is with Trump in Brussels, released a statement that sounded more in line with Kerry than the commander in chief.
“NATO is the most successful alliance in history,” Pompeo tweeted. “All #NATO allies have committed to extending this success through increased defense spending, deterrence and defense, and fighting terrorism. Weakness provokes; strength and cohesion protects. This remains our bedrock belief.”
Kerry’s critique was much more scathing, however.
“The President set America back this morning,” he continued. “He is steadily destroying our reputation in the world. He is undermining our interests. He diminishes alliances we built to safeguard an economic and strategic force that has allowed millions of people to live in freedom.”
Kerry said Trump “displays a woeful ignorance” of the work he and Obama did.
“President Obama raised the issue in a constructive and collegial way that succeeded in securing a pledge from NATO members to increase their defense spending, without undermining the cohesion of the alliance in the process,” Kerry said. “President Obama and I worked hard using effective diplomacy — not bombast and demagoguery — to secure those sanctions in the first place. So too is European energy security an important topic for allies to discuss, even when they disagree. Instead, President Trump just insults friends who have sacrificed to hold that pressure together. There’s a time, place, and manner for raising issues with allies, and trashing them on camera in a way that calls into question the alliance itself isn’t it.”
He added: “What was on display in Brussels today was not the behavior of a strong, principled, and wise leader. Enough. This isn’t good for the United States and there are people across the aisle — as the Senate vote yesterday clearly showed — who know it and need to say it.”
Kerry was referring to the Senate’s 88-11 vote Wednesday to pass a nonbinding measure that seeks to give Congress a role in the implementation of tariffs that, as Trump has claimed, involve national security concerns.
It’s not the first time Kerry has spoken out about Trump’s foreign policy.
In March, Kerry slammed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement that he helped negotiate.
“Today’s announcement weakens our security, breaks America’s word, isolates us from our European allies, puts Israel at greater risk, empowers Iran’s hard-liners, and reduces our global leverage to address Tehran’s misbehavior while damaging the ability of future administrations to make international agreements,” Kerry said. “No rhetoric is required. The facts speak for themselves. Instead of building on unprecedented nonproliferation verification measures, this decision risks throwing them away and dragging the world back to the brink we faced a few years ago.”
Kerry added, “The extent of the damage will depend on what Europe can do to hold the nuclear agreement together, and it will depend on Iran’s reaction. America should never have to outsource those stakes to any other country. This is not in America’s interests. We should all hope the world can preserve the nuclear agreement.”
Before announcing the withdrawal, Trump criticized Kerry for publicly lobbying U.S. allies to salvage the agreement.
“The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal,” Trump tweeted. “He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!”
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