- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2019

President Trump will urge European allies to spend more on defense and repel China‘s “cheap money” during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization‘s meeting in London next week.

Senior administration officials also expect Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to get an earful from NATO partners for purchasing an air-defense system from Russia — an antagonist of the alliance that has shown disregard for its neighbors’ sovereignty.

Mr. Trump, who departs Washington for the meeting Monday, tends to ruffle feathers at these types of summits.

He often complains that allies don’t spend enough of their own money on mutual defense, though senior administration officials say he dishes tough love because he wants to bolster their collective might.

“This is the most successful alliance in history,” a senior administration official said Friday in a preview of Mr. Trump‘s trip.

Officials said Mr. Trump has been “spectacularly successful” in getting countries to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. Nine allies are now spending that share — compared to just four in 2016 — and administration officials expect to see at 18 countries hit the mark by 2024.

Notably missing from Mr. Trump‘s three-day itinerary is a bilateral meeting with the summit’s host, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Some in Britain fear the loquacious U.S. president will try to put his thumb on the scale ahead of a high-stakes election, though senior administration officials said Mr. Trump‘s schedule remains fluid and a meeting isn’t off the table.

They said while Mr. Trump likes Mr. Johnson personally, he is “absolutely cognizant” of the need not to wade into Britain’s affairs. However, Mr. Trump did just that in criticizing then-prime minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit earlier this year.

Officials detailed Mr. Trump‘s upcoming trip even as police in the U.K. responded to a stabbing on London Bridge that was declared a “terrorist incident,” said Neil Basu, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police.

Multiple people were injured, and police shot and killed the male suspect, he said.

London police report that a male suspect was shot and killed at the scene of a terrorist incident near London Bridge.

Mr. Trump said he is monitoring the situation.

“President Trump has been briefed on this morning’s attack at the London Bridge and is monitoring the situation. The United States strongly condemns all horrific acts of violence on innocent people, and we pledge our full support to our ally, the United Kingdom,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said.

Mr. Trump will kick off his London trip with a working breakfast with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and then a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron. Later, he is scheduled to participate in a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.

The following day, Mr. Trump is scheduled to have a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and meet collectively with representatives from the U.K., Baltic states and nations across central and eastern Europe.

He also plans to meet with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, with whom he sparred over Greenland earlier this year.

Senior administration officials said Mr. Trump does not plan to meet with Mr. Erdogan since the pair spoke at the White House in mid-November.

They expect NATO partners, however, to echo concerns about Mr. Erdogan‘s purchase of an S-400 air-defense system from Russia.

“We have been very, very blunt with him,” a senior administration official said.

Senior administration officials said Russia‘s actions, generally, will come up, given its aggression along Ukraine’s eastern border and elsewhere.

China‘s foray into NATO‘s sphere will also feature heavily. Officials characterized the communist power’s “Belt and Road” initiative as “cheap investments” in European ports and electricity grids that are a way to “trap” countries and demand diplomatic concessions.

Mr. Trump also will call on NATO allies to resist Chinese-owned Huawei and use other providers in its 5G cellular networks.

“This has been a major push of ours,” a senior administration official said. “This is not something where [allies] want to allow the Chinese communist party to siphon off their data.”

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