The “summit of the century” as Donald Trump described the US-Baltic meeting in Washington celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Baltic states was on the one hand a major exchange of epithets.
Words like “strong”, “profound friendship”, “alliance” were repeated again and again in statements made after the presidential meetings, but on the other hand it was an opportunity to emphasize concrete cooperation primarily in security, but also in economy.
President of the US Donald Trump welcomed the Baltic presidents in the White House, emphasizing before the working lunch when the press was allowed to enter the hall for a moment, that the Baltic states’ century-long history is impressive for the United States just like the fact that the Baltic states are buying “the world’s best military equipment” from the USA.
Trump also praised Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for paying two percent of their GDP to the NATO budget and underlined that primarily thanks to his criticism and pressure on the countries failing to meet their obligations to NATO in the same fashion, the alliance has started to receive more funding than ever before (another self-serving superlative).
It was planned to mention specifically the Baltic states’ interest in air defense systems at the meeting (which was included in the discussions at Lithuania’s request in particular), but President Trump did not agree to discuss specific military assistance in detail before the meeting. According to Lithuanian sources, the Baltic states would like to see US Patriot missile systems on joint exercises with US troops – as in Lithuania last year – and possibly deployed permanently. The Baltic states also think (again based on Lithuanian sources) that they could be part of the anti-missile shield being set up in Europe under US leadership and the aegis of NATO.
Washington has been emphasizing for years that the shield would provide defense primarily against threats from rogue states like Iran, but Russia views it as an attempt by the West (and primarily the USA) to shift strategic balance in Europe in its favor and this directly opposes Moscow’s interests.
President Trump, whose relations with Russia during the election campaign are currently scrutinized by special counsel Robert Mueller, emphasized to the press before the meeting that Washington’s positions regarding Russia are resolute and that he is a tough leader. But he added that Washington prefers constructive relations to confrontation.
“You shall see very soon, you shall see,” Trump replied to ERR correspondent Mari-Ann Rohemäe, who asked whether he views Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as a friend or a foe.
The US media are currently discussing Trump’s invitation to Putin to visit the White House, made in his congratulatory call after the Russian elections. However, according to the administration officials, there are presently no preparations going on for a definite summit.
However, as the press conference after the meeting showed, neither Trump nor the Baltic leaders were willing to discuss Russia directly. President Kaljulaid after the meeting reminded Postimees the proverb: never cry wolf! Yet Russia was discussed in great detail at the meeting, according to herm, as well as the war on terrorism and the upcoming NATO summit – to mention only some issues. Economic cooperation was addressed as well.
President Kaljulaid said that she is proud that the Estonian taxpayer supports the serious attention to national security by the Estonian state and the spending of two percent of GDP on it, and that in the discussion of security issues with the US, Estonia dos not seek help but is also an ally making its own contribution.
This situation understandably impresses Trump as a life-long businessman and he repeatedly emphasized it.