President Trump's Claims Of Success At NATO Offer A Sharp Change In Tone

Jul 12, 2018
Originally published on July 12, 2018 7:59 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

All right, for some perspective on this story from the U.K., let's bring in NPR London correspondent Frank Langfitt. Good evening, or I guess I should say good morning - past midnight here, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: (Laughter) All right, let's keep our days straight 'cause Trump is scheduled to have a bilateral meeting and a working lunch with British Prime Minister Theresa May here on Friday. Is that still going to happen? How is this interview with The Sun going to affect all this?

LANGFITT: That's a great question. There's been no talk of canceling it. It was interesting. This evening, there were photographs up at Blenheim Palace of actually Theresa May holding hands with Donald Trump. And I assume that she had not seen this interview.

KELLY: Yeah.

LANGFITT: And this is the equivalent I think of knifing your host in the back. This is pretty extraordinary. I've certainly never seen anything like this diplomatically. I would imagine tomorrow conversations will be very chilly at best. Downing Street has already put out a statement insisting that this deal that Theresa May has put together on Brexit, which is a soft Brexit - it is - allows to some degree - it's not - and we don't even know what Brussels will say about it. But certainly on - in terms of goods and agricultural products, they would continue to follow the rules of the European Union. And she insists that this is the best deal for the country.

KELLY: To stick with your knife-in-the-back metaphor, it should be noted Theresa May was already having a really rocky week. Her government was already in turmoil. We just heard there from Scott Horsley about Boris Johnson leaving the government this week. What's going to be the impact on the broader British politics beyond Theresa May?

LANGFITT: Well, this is the worst thing that could happen to her I think. I think it would have been beyond anybody's imagination even this afternoon. And what this does is it really emboldens and hands ammunition to her enemies. She has in the Tory Party rebels who don't like what she's doing with the European Union. They want a very sharp break from the EU. They want to be able to what they call take back sovereignty and be able to make their own rules. This really hands them really strong talking points.

And the other thing, to get back to what Scott said earlier that's really interesting - you know, when they were doing the Brexit campaign - and I was here for this - they kept saying, well, you know, it's going to be OK because Donald Trump is going to give us a great trade deal. This undermines everything and I think makes it - going to make it very, very difficult for her going forward.

KELLY: And set this in the broader context of this week. The drama over this interview and the U.K. visit of course follows the uproar at NATO, which was all the way back earlier today. Who benefits from all this?

LANGFITT: Well, I think that first, the biggest losers would be our top ally - the leader of our top ally, Theresa May. Also, this drives a wedge between the European Union and U.K. And we know that President Trump doesn't like multilateral institutions. But the biggest winner for the last - I'd say the last two to three days has been Vladimir Putin. He hates NATO. He finds it a threat, understandably. He also doesn't like the European Union, would like to do anything he can to break it up and make it more difficult. President Trump in both cases has, you know, done a lot to hurt those institutions and create a lot of tension. So he's - I think Putin's a big winner today.

KELLY: And of course that is the next person with whom President Trump will be meeting after - if he survives this visit to the U.K., if Theresa May doesn't pick up her fork and stab him at the next meal that they have together. We'll see. Meanwhile, let me turn you briefly in these moments we have left. We were already expecting massive protests here in central London. Give us a preview of what is going to happen tomorrow.

LANGFITT: Well, it's going to start off - actually, I'm going down to Parliament early on. They're going to have a balloon, basically a blimp of President Trump. It's an effigy of him in a diaper as a crying child. I think that this - these reports from The Sun will actually drive more people into the streets tomorrow. You know, you and I will be out there. We'll have to see what happens.

KELLY: All right, NPR's Frank Langfitt talking to me now from London at where we are and, as he said, where we will both be covering the protests here tomorrow. Thank you, Frank.

LANGFITT: You're very welcome, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.