Last week’s Brussels NATO summit made news — but not for what transpired in its meetings. Rather, the headlines were all about NATO’s sidelines. US President Donald Trump, an acrid critic of NATO’s European members, claiming they don’t pay their full share, leaving the US with an oversized bill, eschewed traditional pleasantries and made his displeasure clear. Addressing the NATO leaders — assembled in a line-up evoking errant children, including British PM Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others — Trump spoke to the Europeans like the proverbial Dutch uncle, rubbing in his point about Europe not going Dutch.
But Trump, who also pushed past Montenegro’s PM in an abrasive power-strut, didn’t stop there. Refusing to endorse NATO’s stand on the Paris climate deal or on Russia, Trump left NATO leaders shaking their heads. Indeed, Merkel stated that Europe cannot rely any longer on the US, and Europeans must take their future into their own hands.
The European leader who has apparently taken this most literally is French President Emmanuel Macron. His participation at NATO caused a stir from kick-off itself when Macron, striding up to join the older kids on the block, ignored Trump’s outstretched arms and headed, with marked deliberation, to greet Merkel, demonstrating a French mustard-like warmth. Perhaps Trump imagined he’d get his own back by subjecting Macron to his famous handshake, the US president reportedly treating challenging acquaintances to a bone-crushing squeeze. But Macron decided to duel and at NATO, the two shared a tense handshake that only grew tighter with each refusing to cede, their knuckles growing whiter. Macron reportedly stated that the handshake was “a moment of truth”, where he wanted to show he’d not make even symbolic concessions. NATO’s
certainly made news, but mostly for its leaders failing to get a grip.