4 big takeaways from Trump’s impromptu NATO press conference

It's about more than just NATO.

President Donald Trump speaks to the media at a press conference on the second day of the 2018 NATO Summit on July 12, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. CREDIT: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.
President Donald Trump speaks to the media at a press conference on the second day of the 2018 NATO Summit on July 12, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. CREDIT: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

After a two-day NATO summit in Brussels, President Donald Trump held an unscheduled press conference in which he made several false claims, which hinted at some potentially alarming foreign policy decisions.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the impromptu press conference:


President Trump began the summit by repeating disputed claims about U.S. contributions to NATO.

“The United States has been paying a tremendous amount — probably 90 percent of the cost of NATO,” Trump said. In reality, U.S. contributions are only 22 percent. 


Trump then claimed he had gotten other NATO partners to increase their spending. French President Emanuel Macron is already calling out the claim. NATO partners had already agreed — in 2014 — to increase their spending up to 2 percent by 2024. Some have said they might not reach that goal by then, but the commitment is there. So it’s unclear what kind of concessions the president got from other NATO members

Trump said he “thinks” he could “probably” pull the United States out of NATO without congressional approval, which in reality, is against the law. As the name implies, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a treaty. The president cannot unilaterally pull out of a treaty.

The president also said the felt that making threats to leave NATO was “a very effective” way to diplomatically deal with the 28 other member countries who make agreements that he doesn’t approve.

To Russia, with love

Trump will be having a “loose” (not heavily scheduled) meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.


The summit could be an important tool to talk about issues like the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. Syria could be a key bargaining chip for Putin, who might trade its presence in the country for more favorable terms in the Minsk accord or sanctions relief.

But on Thursday, Trump made it clear he wouldn’t be putting a lot of pressure on Putin.

Trump did not reject the possibility of accepting Crimea as part of Russia, instead leaving the door open for accepting the illegal 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The president blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia’s annexation of Crimea and, oddly, highlighted Russian spending in Crimea.

“Long before I got here president Obama allowed that to happen. That was on his watch, not on my watch. People like to say ‘Crimea,’ but the fact that they built bridges and they just opened a big bridge that was started years ago and they built a submarine port substantially added billions of dollars,” said Trump, referring to the 12-mile bridge Russia opened in May.

Trump also said he might consider stopping military exercises in the Baltic states if Putin asked him to.

He said he would ask whether Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, but said there wasn’t much he could do about it.


What am I going to do? He may deny it. It is one of those things. All I can do is say, ‘Did you? And don’t do it again.’ But he may deny it. You’ll be the first to know,” said Trump.

On Brexit and Italy’s immigration policy

In response to being asked about how he felt about the massive protests awaiting his arrival in London later on Thursday, Trump replied, “I think it’s fine. I think they like me a lot in the U.K..”

He then went on, inexplicably, to talk about how he won “probably at least partially won an election because of immigration,” and went to to say he agrees with Italy’s new anti-immigration government, referring to the Italian prime minister by his first name only, “Giuseppe.”

President Trump said he believed that Brexit — the United Kingdom leaving the European Union — is happening due to immigration, which, he implied, is “ruining” the U.K.

North Korea through rose-colored glasses

The president also called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to step up to the mic and say a few words about his recent meeting in North Korea on the shaky negotiations over Pyongyang’s ballistic and nuclear missile programs.

According to North Korea, which said U.S. demands were “gangster-like” and “cancerous,” the talks were a disaster. Pompeo, however, said the meeting was a “productive conversation” and Trump agreed that it was “an amazing meeting.”

Ultimately, the president used the press conference as a victory lap for victories that he has not yet achieved.