President with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. Photo: Tatyana Zenkovich/AFP via Getty Images)
I asked NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg a pair of questions in Brussels today: 1) Did President Trump assure you he wouldn't make any concessions in his meeting with Vladimir Putin — for example on Crimea? 2) Has President Trump, in any of his conversations with you, suggested he thinks the United States has too many troops in Europe?
In both of his answers, Stoltenberg made a point about Trump’s words being different from that of the administration’s deeds (so far). It's true that Trump has not done anything to reduce U.S. military support for NATO, and has actually increased military investments in Europe. But at the same time, Trump has done what no recent U.S. president has done — publicly questioned the value of NATO for the U.S. and in the process made some of America’s closest allies privately question whether they can still rely on American protection.
- "Action speaks louder than words. And I'm absolutely confident about the U.S. commitment to European security," Stoltenberg said. He also noted that all allies, including the U.S., signed a declaration today saying they don't recognize Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea. (But he dodged the question about what assurances he sought and received.)
- "This is the unified position of all allies," Stoltenberg said in response to question two. "... The illegal annexation of Crimea is one of the main reasons why NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War." (Again, separating Trump’s words from the Trump administration’s deeds.)