Boris Johnson appealed for NATO unity today as the military alliance’s leaders gathered for a summit to try and ease seething tensions.
The PM insisted there is ‘far more that unites us than divides us’ as he arrived at the country house hotel in Hertfordshire where the crunch event is being held.
The meeting – which marks the 70th birthday of the pivotal Western grouping – has been marred by a bitter spat over Emmanuel Macron’s jibe that NATO is at risk of becoming ‘brain dead’.
But Donald Trump has branded Mr Macron’s comments – a response to an apparent deal between the US and Turkey to facilitate an offensive against Kurdish forces – very nasty’.
There are also fears Mr Johnson’s carefully-laid plans to keep Mr Trump on side could be wrecked by the emergence of a clip seemingly showing other leaders making fun of him at a reception last night.
Arriving at the summit near Watford today, Mr Johnson said Britain’s commitment to the alliance remained ‘rock solid’.
‘Clearly it is very important that the alliance stays together, but there is far, far more that unites us than divides us,’ he said.
Mr Johnson said he had a ‘very good’ bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening.
Arriving at the NATO summit near Watford this morning, Boris Johnson said Britain’s commitment to the alliance remained ‘rock solid’
Donald Trump arrived at the Grove near Watford today by helicopter as the potentially tricky NATO summit kicked off
Mr Trump tweeted about his meeting with Mr Johnson en route to the summit – seemingly ignoring claims of a snub
‘We discussed the future of Nato, we discussed what is going on in Syria and various other matters,’ he said.
Mr Macron acknowledged in a tweet that his statements about NATO had ‘triggered some reactions’ but said he stood by his remarks.
Leaders from the 29 member states are starting talks at The Grove, having already attended a reception at Buckingham Palace, hosted by the Queen, and visited Downing Street last night.
The meeting in Hertfordshire is expected to consider new threats, including in the areas of cyber and space, after the alliance last month declared space one of its operational domains alongside air, land, sea and cyber.
Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau are caught gossiping about Trump
Justin Trudeau, center, Emmanuel Macron, second right, and Boris Johnson, right, have all been caught on a hot mic at the Buckingham Palace NATO reception appearing to gossip about Donald Trump and an apparent impromptu lengthy press conference
Boris Johnson’s carefully-laid plans to assuage Donald Trump could be wrecked by the emergence of a clip seemingly showing other leaders making fun of him.
In footage being widely shared online, Mr Johnson Canada’s Justin Trudeau, French president Emmanuel Macron, Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Princess Anne are seen at a reception discussing why Mr Macron had been late during the London summit.
None of them mention Trump by name but Mr Trudeau appears to refer to the US president’s impromptu press conferences in what were meant to be photo ops with other leaders yesterday.
In the clip, Mr Johnson asks: ‘Is that why you were late?’ Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, swigging from his drink, shoots back: ‘He was late because he takes a 40 minute press conference off the top.’
The video then cuts to a later clip, which is without context, where Trudeau adds: ‘You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor.’ He then motions as if his jaw is dropping. It is not known if Trump is the focus of that comment as the video has been edited.
In a rallying call to begin the discussions, Mr Johnson, whose predecessor Theresa May volunteered to host the meeting, reminded the allies that their commitment to NATO has helped keep people across the globe safe since its inception in 1949.
‘Seventy years on, we are rock solid in our commitment to Nato and to the giant shield of solidarity that now protects 29 countries and nearly a billion people,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘The fact that we live in peace today demonstrates the power of the simple proposition at the heart of this alliance: that for as long as we stand together, no-one could hope to defeat us – and therefore no-one will start a war.
‘This essential principle is enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty – that if any one of us is attacked, all of us will go to their defence. If Nato has a motto, it is, ‘one for all, and all for one’.’
The words – echoing the famous phrase of The Three Musketeers, a novel written by renowned French author Alexandre Dumas – will have pointed resonance for Mr Macron,.
Mr Johnson said the ‘doctrine of coming to one another’s aid’ was the ‘single most important explanation’ for why the British people and hundreds of millions of others lived in peace and freedom.
‘Everything our peoples hold dear – from liberty and democracy to their jobs, homes, schools and hospitals – would not be secure and could not flourish without the peace that Nato is designed to guarantee,’ the Conservative Party leader added.
But the PM warned that peace ‘cannot be taken for granted’ and said Nato members must ‘ensure our deeds match our words’.
He is set to lay out the UK’s own contribution to Nato’s defence ranks and highlight the ’emerging threats’ faced by the alliance, such as cyber warfare.
Mr Johnson is preparing to say: ‘For the UK’s part, we spend over 2 per cent of GDP on defence.
‘We are making the biggest contribution of any European ally to Nato’s readiness initiative by offering an armoured brigade, two fighter squadrons and six warships, including the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers.
‘As allies and friends, we must never shy away from discussing new realities, particularly Nato’s response to emerging threats like hybrid warfare and disruptive technologies including space and cyber.’
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has said he is confident differences with Turkey over a new alliance defence plan to protect the Baltic states and Poland can be resolved.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to block the plan after criticism of Turkey’s incursion against the Kurds in northern Syria.
But arriving for a meeting of alliance leaders near Watford, Mr Stoltenberg said: ‘I am confident that we will find a solution to the updating of the revised defence plan.’
He said Nato leaders would for the first time discuss the rise of China, which was now the world’s second biggest spender on defence.
‘This provides opportunities and also challenges,’ he said.
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg (right) said he is confident differences with Turkey over a new alliance defence plan to protect the Baltic states and Poland can be resolved. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pictured left
German Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed in good spirits as she arrived for the summit in Hertfordshire today
Dutch PM Mark Rutte (left) and Luxembourg premier Xavier Bettel (right) were also at the gathering at a country house hotel in Hertfordshire today
Leaders of Nato alliance countries, and its secretary general, join Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales for a group picture during a reception in Buckingham Palace, London, as they gathered to mark 70 years of the alliance
Donald Trump (pictured with First Lady Melania at No10 last night) has branded Mr Macron’s comments – a response to an apparent deal between the US and Turkey to facilitate an offensive against Kurdish forces – very nasty’