Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images, Chesnot/Getty Images, Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Image, Jasper Juinen/Getty Images, and Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images.

This week's NATO meeting in London will be "a celebratory leaders' meeting," according to a White House talking point ahead of President Trump's trip. But European officials aren't betting on it, and Trump has been privately complaining about France's President Emmanuel Macron. 

Best-case scenario, for Europeans: Trump sticks to the script — taking credit for a stronger NATO and celebrating the fact that the Europeans are spending more on their defense. 

  • "Allies believe they have worked hard to construct a positive narrative that Trump can buy into," a senior official from a NATO member state told me.
  • The official summarized that narrative as "increased defense spending by European allies of $130b since 2016 ... plus decrease in U.S. share of NATO budget plus increased high readiness forces."
  • Trump, with the 2020 election coming up, "will want to take credit for that," the official said. But "allies still very much fear the unpredictability of the president."

Behind the scenes: Three senior administration officials told me Trump has been deeply annoyed by Macron, who recently told The Economist that "what we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO" and that the United States under Trump's leadership appears to be "turning its back on us."

  • "He's been down on Macron for a long while," said one official.
  • The leaders' "bromance" appears to be a distant memory. Trump has described Macron as a "wise guy" in conversations with his advisers. (He has privately used the same phrase to describe Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.)
  • Another official said Macron's comments may have the ironic effect of causing Trump to speak more positively about the alliance to contradict Macron's negativity.

The Europeans, meanwhile, have shared their worries widely ahead of the meeting. "All I'm hearing is great anxiety about what Trump might do or say," said Ivo Daalder, who served as U.S. ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013.

Between the lines: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has preemptively placated Trump. He released new data showing that allies are spending many billions more on their defense, which Trump has demanded.

  • And in a move tailored for Trump — who has been infuriated by Germany's reluctance to spend more on defense — Stoltenberg announced that NATO allies will pick up some slack so that the U.S. no longer covers a larger share of the alliance's $2.5 billion central budget than Germany: 16% each starting in 2021.

The bottom line: Though a senior administration official told reporters on a Friday call that the NATO alliance "remains instrumental," European leaders say they've seen this movie before. They've learned the hard way to ignore cheery lines from the White House staff — and that only Trump speaks for Trump.

What to watch

We'll be watching to see how the NATO allies handle two crucial internal debates — how to manage NATO's problem child (Turkey) and how to handle a global power that poses a growing threat to the alliance (China).

Between the lines: "Turkey appears to have decided that its future is better assured by close alignment with Putin's Russia than with a US-led NATO," said Daalder. "The S-400 decision" — Turkey's decision to defy America and its NATO allies by purchasing the Russian anti-aircraft system — and its "deal with Russia" to take control of the border zone in Syria "are but the latest blows to NATO unity."

  • There's also increasing division in NATO over China, over whether to allow Huawei to operate 5G networks and over a growing alignment between Beijing and central and eastern European countries, Daalder said.
  • It's "dividing east and west Europe economically, politically and, increasingly, strategically as China's power and influence in Europe is on the rise."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.