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President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May standing among other NATO leaders at the alliance's 2018 summit in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

On President Trump's first day at the NATO Summit, he scolded Germany as "a captive of Russia," accused allies of being delinquent on defense payments and called on member countries to double their defense spending from 2% to 4% of GDP. But he then joined 28 allied leaders in signing a declaration that bolsters NATO deterrence and defense and starkly criticized Russia for its illegal annexation of Crimea.

Why it matters: The first set of statements are deeply divisive and call Trump's commitment to NATO into question. Germany is hardly controlled by Moscow, allies don't owe the U.S. any money and even the U.S. doesn't spend 4% of GDP on defense. These are all statements designed to undermine NATO.

Nevertheless, NATO made important decisions that strengthen the alliance:

  • Agreement to deploy 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 war ships in 30 days by 2020 to defend NATO territory
  • Reform of the integrated command structure to enable rapid reinforcement across the Atlantic and Europe to defenses in the East
  • Reaffirmation of the commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defense by 2024
  • Strengthening of the counterterrorism training mission in Iraq

The bottom line: Allies will ignore the Trumpian bluster for now, even if they see it as deeply unfortunate and challenging, focusing instead on the important steps taken to strengthen NATO.

What's next: The real test will come Monday, when President Trump meets Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. If Trump stands up to the Russian leader and underscores differences over Ukraine, Syria and arms control, allies will be reassured. But if Trump agrees to concessions — like halting the deployment of troops in the East, limiting missile defenses or ending NATO enlargement — allies will know that Trump's bluster is real.

Ivo Daalder is the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Go deeper

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.