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Thursday, May 25, 2017

TRUMP IN BELGIUM AFTER CALLING ITS CAPITAL BRUSSELS A HELL-HOLE


Donald Trump and the Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel


Donald Trump and the Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel




1. Latest stop on lengthy foreign trip for President Trump is Brussels where he landed Wednesday afternoon  

2. Was greeted warmly by country's prime minister Charles Michel despite calling Belgian capital a 'hellhole'

3. Is attending Nato summit Thursday for first meeting with full range of alliance leaders 

4. Trump has previously said Nato is obsolete - but alliance is using summit to unveil changes 

5. Two days in Belgium come after meeting the Pope in Rome and promising to 'remember' Catholic leader's message of 'peace' 

President Trump landed in Brussels Wednesday afternoon in the latest stop of his first foreign trip, touching down in a city he had previously called a 'hellhole'.

His first meeting was with Belgium's prime minister, Charles Michel, who greeted him as Air Force One landed.

But the main focus of his trip to the Belgian capital is for a Nato summit. 

Trump was harshly critical of NATO as a candidate, declaring the military alliance 'obsolete.' 

He has also criticized member countries for not following NATO guidelines to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

The president has been similarly critical of Brussels, the Belgian capital that is home to both the NATO and the European Union headquarters. After the city's recent struggles with terrorism, Trump called Brussels a 'hellhole.'

Brussels is Trump's fourth stop on his maiden overseas tour. His fifth and final stop will be Sicily, where he'll meet with the leaders of the Group of 7 wealthy nations.

Nato is rolling out the red carpet for Trump in Brussels.

The military alliance - which Trump once declared obsolete - has been busy repackaging its image and is ready to unveil a new headquarters worth more than 1 billion euros.

In recent months, member nations have strained to show they are ramping up defense spending as Trump has demanded, even though they have been doing so for a few years in response to an aggressive Russia. 

And while they agree with the chief of the alliance's most powerful member that Nato can do more to fight terrorism, they say it can be achieved with more of the same; training and mentoring troops in Afghanistan, and equipping local forces in Iraq so they can better fight the Islamic State group themselves.

'They'll only talk about what he cares about, so really he should come out of this meeting feeling as though Nato responds to him,' said Kristine Berzina, Nato analyst at the German Marshall Fund think tank. 'At least that's what they hope here.'

'They'll only talk about what he cares about, so really he should come out of this meeting feeling as though Nato responds to him,' said Kristine Berzina, Nato analyst at the German Marshall Fund think tank. 'At least that's what they hope here.'

Indeed, as part of the repackaging to be announced during Trump's 24-hour visit to the city he branded a 'hellhole,' Nato is likely to agree to join the 68-nation international coalition fighting ISIS. 

The move is symbolically important, especially since the group claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.

An anti-terror coordinator may also be named, but most changes will be cosmetic, as Nato allies have no intention of going to war against IS.

'It's totally out of the question for NATO to engage in any combat operations,' Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, on the eve of the meeting.

The 28 member nations, plus soon-to-join Montenegro, will renew an old vow to move toward spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. 

Still, many are skeptical about this arbitrary bottom line that takes no account of effective military spending where it's needed most. Germany would have to virtually double its military budget and spend more than Russia.

Putting some meat on the pledge, the leaders will agree to prepare action plans by the end of the year, plotting how to reach 2 percent over the next seven years, and show how they will use the money and contribute troops to Nato operations.


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