NATO insists it is united at end of raucous, divisive summit

Heads of state take part in a working dinner at The Parc du Cinquantenaire — Jubelpark Park in Brussels on July 11, 2018, during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit. (AFP / POOL / BENOIT DOPPAGNE)
Updated 13 July 2018
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NATO insists it is united at end of raucous, divisive summit

  • Tensions rose on the final day of the two-day summit, when members met in an emergency session amid demands from Trump to speed up defense spending.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg insisted that Georgia will one day join the world’s biggest security alliance, despite separatist ambitions in parts of the former Soviet republic.

BRUSSELS: At the end of a bewildering, roller-coaster NATO summit, the military alliance’s 29 nations somehow pledged continued unity and kept their long commitment to beef up defense spending amid a barrage of biting criticism from US President Donald Trump.

Even though Trump suggested he could probably withdraw the US from NATO if he wanted to, he conceded “that is unnecessary” because he felt his relentless hectoring had forced other nations to spend more than NATO’s long-term goal of 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Many even fail to meet the current benchmark.

Trump called it “a fantastic meeting,” speaking at a news conference on Thursday before flying to Britain.

Some NATO allies had not exactly heard the same conclusions as Trump around the table, and French President Emmanuel Macron immediately poured cold water on Trump’s spending ambitions for other allies.

“There is a communique that was published yesterday. It’s very detailed,” Macron said.

 “It confirms the goal of 2 percent by 2024. That’s all.”

In the end, leaders left with an awkward consensus, after hours in which Trump had been so aggressive in his approach with allies that reports made the rounds that he might pull the US out.

“President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO,” Macron told reporters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was a prime target of Trump over two raucous days. He accused her nation of being beholden to and a “captive” of Russia for a pipeline deal while at the same time presiding over an economy that seeks to rip off the United States.

By Thursday afternoon she left unruffled and unflappable as ever, telling reporters in Brussels that “there was a clear commitment to NATO by all.”

She said Trump raised the topic of better burden-sharing and more spending by Germany, “as has been discussed for months,” and that “we made clear that we’re on the way.”

Trump has several times assailed Germany for not spending a large enough proportion of its gross domestic product on defense.

Merkel, for her part, stressed that Germany is NATO’s second-biggest contributor when it comes to troops.

Tensions rose on the final day of the two-day summit, when members met in an emergency session amid demands from Trump to speed up defense spending.

“We are paying for far too much of NATO,” Trump said.

At the end though, Trump said the military alliance is “very unified, very strong, no problem.”

 

Separatist ambitions

For an organization Trump once called “obsolete,” he said on Thursday: “I believe in NATO.”

Also on Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg insisted that Georgia will one day join the world’s biggest security alliance, despite separatist ambitions in parts of the former Soviet republic.

Stoltenberg said “Georgia will become a member of NATO.” 

He said the 29-nation alliance supports the territorial integrity of Georgia, including its sovereignty over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008, which led to the regions declaring independence. Russia has since been supporting them financially and militarily.

Despite Georgia’s important contribution to NATO operations, the alliance is unlikely to invite it in until the conflict with the two regions has been resolved.


Wife of former Malaysian PM Najib to be questioned by anti-corruption agency

Updated 25 September 2018
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Wife of former Malaysian PM Najib to be questioned by anti-corruption agency

  • Rosmah was first questioned in June in connection with the investigation
  • A source familiar with the investigation said Rosmah would be questioned in connection with the 1MDB probe

KUALA LUMPUR: Rosmah Mansor, the wife of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, was summoned on Tuesday for questioning by the anti-graft agency in its multi-billion dollar corruption probe at state fund 1MDB.
It was the second time Rosmah, 66, has been called in by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) since the shock defeat of Najib in the May general election.
Rosmah was first questioned in June in connection with the investigation, which is looking into allegations of corruption and misappropriation in state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Her husband has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust.
The former first lady was served with a notice on Tuesday afternoon to appear before MACC the next day, her lawyer K.Kumaraendran said, adding that she was asked to assist with investigations under the anti-money laundering act.
A source familiar with the investigation said Rosmah would be questioned in connection with the 1MDB probe.
After filing fresh charges against Najib last week, Azam Baki, the deputy commissioner of the anti-graft agency, said more charges could be brought against individuals over 1MDB.
When asked if Rosmah could face charges, he said: “I’m not denying that.”
Rosmah’s penchant for designer handbags, watches and jewelry raised eyebrows in Malaysia, with opponents asking how she was able to afford the luxury items on her husband’s government salary.
She has drawn comparisons to Imelda Marcos, who left behind more than 1,200 pairs of shoes when her husband Ferdinand Marcos was ousted as president of the Philippines in 1986.
Najib and Rosmah have both been barred from leaving the country since the former’s election defeat, and their home and other properties linked to them have been searched by the police as part of the 1MDB investigations.
The haul seized from the properties included 567 handbags, 423 watches and 12,000 pieces of jewelry.
Najib has said most of the seized items were gifts given to his wife and daughter and had nothing to do with 1MDB.
The US Department of Justice has alleged more than $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB and that about $680 million ended up in Najib’s personal bank account. Najib has denied any wrongdoing.