Trump’s just misunderstood, says UK Labour Party

Britain's Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy praises Trump's defense record and urges Europeans not to "personalize" debate over NATO spending.

May 9, 2024 - 00:36
Trump’s just misunderstood, says UK Labour Party

Think Donald Trump’s going to leave Europe to fend for itself? Don’t be so sure, says Britain’s Labour Party.

David Lammy, vying to be Britain’s next top diplomat if his opposition party proves the polls right and wins a general election, told a U.S. think tank Wednesday that the former president’s stance on Europe’s security is “often misunderstood.”

And he urged fellow Europeans not to “personalize” the debate over NATO members paying their way in the military alliance.

Trump triggered alarm in European capitals earlier this year when he said he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries who don’t meet their financial obligations.

But Lammy — who has sharply criticized Trump in the past and once branded him a “neo-Nazi-sympathizing sociopath” — told the Hudson Institute in Washington he does “not believe that [Trump] is arguing that the U.S. should abandon Europe.”

Instead, the shadow foreign secretary said, Trump “wants Europeans to do more to ensure a better defended Europe.”

“Were his words in office shocking? Yes, they were,” Lammy said of Trump. “Would we have used them? No.”

“But U.S. spending on European defense actually grew under President Trump, as did the defense spending of the wider alliance during his tenure.”

Lammy argued that Trump had in fact helped to push the issue of European defense spend up the global agenda during his time in the White House.

“When he began his campaign only four countries were spending their 2 percent of GDP,” the shadow foreign secretary said. “The number was 10 by the time he left office. And it is 18 today.”

In a message to worried diplomats, Lammy said: “I tell my European friends: don’t personalize this. Do more is the American ask, whoever wins.”

Charm offensive

Lammy is in Washington for two days of meetings with senior Democrats, as well as Trump allies including JD Vance, Elbridge Colby and Fred Fleitz. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is also on his list, as Lammy seeks to forge closer ties with the GOP in case the center-left Labour Party defeats the Tories and the former president makes it back to the White House.

David Lammy argued that Trump had helped to push the issue of European defense spend up the global agenda during his time in the White House. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Lammy — who has already been winning praise from some Trump allies — is also expecting to meet U.S. President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

His latest comments on Trump mark a decided break from a flurry of attacks on the top Republican in the past. In 2017 Lammy wrote on Twitter that Trump is “a racist KKK and Nazi sympathizer” and vowed to oppose a visit to the U.K. by the then-president.

In 2018, Lammy said Trump’s “threats to NATO and the U.N. are no more logical than arson.” And in 2019 he called Trump a “misogynist” who seemed to represent a “horrible white supremacy.”

Sam Blewett contributed reporting.

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