President Trump’s next two summits, first with NATO allies in Brussels, then with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, will either restore American global leadership or kill it off, depending on how he plays our hand.
Unity at NATO, followed by a firm encounter with Mr. Putin, would demonstrate American resolve to stand with allies and stand up to strategic competitors. Or Mr. Trump could squander all the power and leverage of the United States by abusing and dividing our allies, then lavishing praise and freebies on an autocrat he admires who is set on undermining our democracy and global position. It all depends which President Trump shows up in Brussels and Helsinki — the one his national security adviser says wants a strong NATO, or the man who regularly calls NATO “obsolete.”
Traditionally, an American president gains when he meets a Kremlin boss with the wind of allied unity at his back. If he uses the NATO meeting to coordinate his message to Moscow, he multiplies the impact by speaking for dozens of free countries, not just America. And a Trump-Putin summit is overdue. The mountain of problems we have with Russia requires leader-to-leader talks because Mr. Putin has neutered decision-making at all other levels of his government.
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