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Trump heads to NATO summit as impeachment looms

Noah Bierman and Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Awkwardness has been the hallmark of President Donald Trump's meetings with Western allies since he was elected three years ago on a platform that bashed existing treaties, trade deals and alliances.

He leaves Monday for a two-day summit at a resort in Hertfordshire, 18 miles outside London, with leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the 29-nation military alliance that has been one of his most frequent targets.

He is scheduled to return Wednesday night, hours after the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee holds its first public hearing, the next phase of the impeachment inquiry. Trump's legal team was invited to attend but declined.

Democrats allege that Trump held up $391 million in promised security aid to Ukraine over the summer in an effort to gain Ukraine's help for his reelection campaign.

Trump at times has suggested that he blocked the aid because European allies -- the same ones he will be meeting with this week -- were not doing enough to help Kyiv defend itself against Russian aggression.

That explanation came into question after a U.S. diplomat testified in an impeachment hearing last month that the European Union has spent a total of $12 billion to aid Ukraine since Russia invaded in 2014, four times as much as the United States.

 

Analysts don't expect NATO allies to publicly confront Trump over Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance, during the summit.

"It will be a short meeting," said a European diplomat, who requested anonymity to avoid upsetting Trump. "We won't go like in a normal summit where the president has many opportunities during many sessions to kind of speak out of the box."

The summit has a fairly limited agenda in part because allies are eager to avoid any embarrassing conflicts.

"Most of them are trying to keep their head down and let the storm pass," said Thomas Wright, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution in Washington.

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