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.


French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

Updated 52 min 9 sec ago
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French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

  • The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence
  • Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital

PARIS: Thousands of French yellow vest demonstrators were marching through Paris on Saturday as authorities enforced bans on protests in certain areas and displayed enhanced security measures to avoid a repeat of last week’s riots in the capital.
The crowd gathered peacefully Saturday at Denfert-Rochereau Square in southern Paris and then headed north. The protesters are expected to finish Saturday’s march in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Montmartre around its signature monument, the hilltop Sacre-Coeur Cathedral.
French authorities have banned protests from the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris and the central neighborhoods of several other cities including Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille and Nice in the south, and Rouen in western France.
The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence. Scores of shops were looted and ransacked last weekend, and some were set on fire by protesters. Fear of more violence certainly kept tourists away, and police shut down the Champs-Elysees subway stations as a precaution.
Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital.
In Nice, police dispersed a few hundred protesters who gathered on a central plaza. The city was placed under high security measures as Chinese President Xi Jinping was expected to stay overnight on Sunday as part of his state visit to France.
The new Paris police chief, Didier Lallement, who took charge following the destruction wrought by last week’s protests, said specific police units have been created to react faster to any violence.
About 6,000 police officers were deployed in the capital on Saturday and two drones were helping to monitor the demonstrations. French authorities also deployed soldiers to protect sensitive sites, allowing police forces to focus on maintaining order during the protests.
President Emmanuel Macron on Friday dismissed criticism from opposition leaders regarding the involvement of the military, saying they are not taking over police duties.
“Those trying to scare people, or to scare themselves, are wrong,” he said in Brussels.
Christelle Camus, a yellow vest protester from a southern suburb of Paris, called using French soldiers to help ensure security “a great nonsense.”
“Since when do soldiers face a population? We are here in France. You would say that we are here in (North) Korea or in China. I never saw something like this,” she said.
Last week’s surge in violence came as support for the 4-month-old anti-government yellow vest movement has been dwindling, mostly as a reaction to the riots by some protesters.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes but have expanded into a broader rejection of Macron’s economic policies, which protesters say favor businesses and the wealthy over ordinary French workers. Macron countered by dropping the fuel tax hike and holding months of discussions with the public on France’s stagnant wages, high taxes and high unemployment.
The yellow vest movement was named after the fluorescent garments that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.