NATO summit to focus on “malign activities of Russia” – White House

The major overall theme of next week’s NATO summit in Brussels will be NATO’s “strength and unity,” and the major areas of deterrence are “the malign activities of Russia,” including Russian efforts “to divide our democratic nation” as well as INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear) Treaty violations, a senior Trump administration official said Thursday during a background briefing.

Trump will arrive Tuesday evening in Brussels for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit, prior to his summit July 16 in Helsinki with Russia President Vladimir Putin.

The first Trump meetings in Brussels will be a bilateral meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, along with other senior administration and NATO officials, the official said.

At NATO headquarters for an opening ceremony, the heads of state will talk about “the defense and deterrence issues, and particularly strengthening our efforts in our southern membership area,” the official said.

That night will be a working dinner with the heads of state, separate dinners with the secretary and ministers of defense and the ministers of state and the US secretary of state, the official noted.

On Wednesday, another heads of state meeting will be held with the heads of state of Georgia and Ukraine, as well as a meeting of the Afghan partners of the US “in the mission to bring peace to Afghanistan,” according to the official.

“What we are looking to deliver at the NATO summit is an emphasis on burden-sharing, at which it will be shown that 16 of our allies are on track to meet the 2 percent pledge that was made by all of our allies together at Wales,” the official said.

“We are now facing major threats by Russia; … we have a rising China; and we have counter-terrorism that is an emphasis that the President has asked NATO to make a priority, and which this year we are doing,” the official pointed out.

NATO’s command structure reform will also be approved at the summit, the official said.

The new strategy in Afghanistan will ask 41 US allies and partners to extend funding for security forces and have “a conditions-based operation that will provide that we will stay the course in Afghanistan and help them with training and advising to bring peace and stability to that country,” the official said.

A new Iraq training mission will likely be adopted by the heads of state to advise and train Iraqi security forces, the official said.

After the defeat of the so-called Islamic State is “absolutely finished,” the US wants, as an adopted NATO mission, to “help the police and the armed services in Iraq to stabilize the country … hopefully, when the government is formed after their recent election,” the official added.

“We also will stress the open door that NATO has had for new members” to allow “accession negotiations” for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the official said. “And also, we will support Georgia and Ukraine membership aspirations and sovereignty as another of the summit deliverables,” the official added. Next Thursday, Trump will depart for the United Kingdom, “and the White House is in the process of organizing a separate briefing on that subject,” the official said.

A second senior administration official said that Trump and Putin will discuss in Helsinki “US-Russia relations and a range of national security issues. The President is pursuing this meeting in the interest of America’s national security, to determine whether Russia is willing to make progress in our bilateral relationship.” Trump “hopes that a meeting can help reduce tensions and lead to constructive engagement that improves peace and security around the world, because you can’t solve problems if you’re not talking about them,” the second official said.

“The President believes a better relationship with Russia would be good for both America and Russia, but the ball really is in Russia’s court, and the President will continue to hold Russia accountable for its malign activities,” the official said.

Earlier on July 16, Trump will participate in a bilateral meeting with President Sauli Niinisto of Finland, the official noted.

Source: Kuwait News Agency