Trump prepares to leave for NATO summit in London

By Kathryn Watson

/ CBS News

NATO trains for Russian aggression in Norway

President Trump is leaving for London next week to meet with other world leaders and mark the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. It's a trip that comes the same week as the House Judiciary Committee holds its first public impeachment hearing, and as Britain prepares for yet another election.

Mr. Trump is expected to meet one-on-one with a handful of his counterparts, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Angela Merkel. But he is not currently scheduled to meet one-on-one with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is due for another election the week after hosting the NATO summit, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on Friday. Senior administration officials stressed the White House is still working on nailing down bilateral meetings with other leaders. His trip is expected to last Monday through Wednesday.

But the trip also comes amid other potentially awkward circumstances for Mr. Trump and other NATO members. The president is not expected to have a bilateral meeting with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he met with at the White House earlier this month. Mr. Trump has been heavily criticized for his warm approach to Erdogan, whose military invaded northern Syria and forced out Kurdish forces after Mr. Trump announced the withdrawal of many U.S. troops from the region. Mr. Trump has described the authoritarian leader as a "friend."

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A senior administration official told reporters Friday that the NATO alliance is stronger with Turkey fully in sync. The U.S., senior administration officials said, believes the ceasefire agreement involving Turkey and the Kurds is still holding.

"I'm a big fan of the president, to tell you that, and I know that the ceasefire, while complicated is moving forward, and moving forward at a very rapid clip," Mr. Trump said of Erdogan during a White House press conference earlier this month.

As for Russia, a senior administration official said the Kremlin's threats to the sovereignty of its neighbors will be a topic of importance at the summit.

Mr. Trump once called NATO "obsolete," a term has since said no longer applies, although he continues to criticize the institution. His insistence that NATO members pay more in defense spending is a central theme of both his relationship with the alliance, and his campaign. One senior administration official said they expect that by 2024, 18 countries will be paying 2 percent of their budgets towards defense.

The president's NATO trip also comes after his first visit to Afghanistan, a surprise trip he made on Thanksgiving. There, the president confirmed he's bringing down the number of U.S. troops from 14,000 to 8,600, and claimed talks with the Taliban are resuming.

First published on November 29, 2019 / 12:43 PM

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Kathryn Watson kathryn-watson-220x140.png

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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