Jun 28, 2018

Unshackled Trump worries allies

Trump at the 2017 NATO summit. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

America’s closest allies once believed President Trump could be contained — by the likes of James Mattis, or in a pinch Emmanuel Macron, if not by the weight of his office and America’s role in the world. In recent months, they’ve all but given up on that idea.

The bottom line: Despite repeated exhortations from U.S. officials to “pay attention to our actions, not the tweets,” Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports that European officials are reaching a new, uncomfortable consensus: no one really speaks for Trump but Trump himself.

  • Case in point: After both his national security adviser and Secretary of State said election meddling would be on the table when Trump meets Vladimir Putin next month, Trump unleashed a tweet this morning again casting doubt on the conclusion that Russia had meddled at all.

As the Putin meeting will be back-to-back with an annual NATO summit, allies fear a repeat performance from two weeks ago, when Trump followed up a prickly G7 summit by castigating Justin Trudeau, before heaping praise on Kim Jong-un.

  • The tension is already building: Swan reports that Trump told other leaders at the G7 that, in his mind, "NATO is as bad as NAFTA," a deal he considers an unmitigated disaster for the U.S. and a massive waste of money.
  • In the same meeting, Trump said Crimea probably should belong to Russia because everyone there speaks Russian. He also said Russia should be allowed back in the G8 (it was expelled in 2014 for annexing Crimea).
  • Alina Polyakova of Brookings notes: "Moscow’s aim is to destabilize the West. Luckily for Putin, the West is doing a lot of that work for him."

Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia and deputy secretary general of NATO who is now at the Atlantic Council, says Putin "probably can't believe his lucky stars."

  • "This has been the Russian and the Soviet objective — to undermine NATO, to cause it to lose its cohesion and resolve — since NATO's founding in 1949."
  • Vershbow says one worrying scenario, from NATO's perspective, is that Trump could adopt Putin's line that NATO exercises and troops on the bloc's eastern flank are "provocative," echoing his statements about joint exercises with South Korea.
  • On the other hand, he says, given all the speculation that the summit will be a disaster, even boilerplate statements of support from Trump would be a "tonic" to the alliance: "He likes to be a contrarian, so there's a chance."

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Countries where novel coronavirus cases are falling may be hit with a "second peak" if they relax restrictions too soon, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned during a briefing Monday. "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," he added.

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.6 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,900 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,498,849 — Total deaths: 346,306 — Total recoveries — 2,233,180Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,662,768 — Total deaths: 98,223 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

LATAM Airlines files for U.S. chapter 11 bankruptcy

A LATAM air attendant aboard one of the company's planes in March. Photo: Kike Calvo/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

LATAM Airlines Group SA said in a statement early Tuesday the firm and its affiliates in in the United States, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

Why it matters: Latam is Latin America's largest airline and its shareholders include Delta Air Lines. CEO Roberto Alvo noted in the statement the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the airline industry.