As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization readies itself to meet President Donald Trump at their summit in Brussels this week, one common agenda item is conspicuously absent: Russia.
According to a report by BuzzFeed News, Russia will not be on the agenda at this year’s alliance meeting (Trump’s first since taking office) despite it being an intentional topic of discussion at the last two meetings in Wales and Warsaw.
Dana Lungescu, a NATO spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News that the Brussels meeting will be “short”, and focused on “stepping up NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism, and fairer burden sharing”.
According to other sources that spoke to BuzzFeed, the absence of Russia on the agenda is purposeful. President Trump still hasn’t affirmed the treaty’s Article 5, which requires NATO members to come to the defense of allies, and keeping him happy and getting him to support it remains a top priority the treaty’s other members.
“You’ve got to remember that Trump still hasn’t explicitly stated his support for Article 5,” one European Union official told BuzzFeed. “First thing’s first.”
“This commitment is supposed to be delivered by the president himself at the meeting,” Saulius Gasiunas, a Lithuanian defense official, told BuzzFeed. “This will finalize the issue and put an end to uncertainties and ambiguities.”
Pleasing the new American president has been a reported priority for NATO in other ways. Last week, reports surfaced claiming that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told members that Trump “has a 12-second attention span,” and that members should shorten their speeches accordingly.
Though NATO has denied the secretary-general ever said that, the implications remain clear: pleasing Trump is a priority at the Brussels summit.
Despite the lack of sanctioned Russia talk, some Eastern European alliance members have bristled at the concept of avoiding those discussions.
“The Poles and the Baltics wanted a meeting that would show continuity with Wales-Warsaw,” former Italian NATO ambassador Stefano Stefanini told BuzzFeed. “The Poles and the Baltics wanted a meeting that would show continuity with Wales-Warsaw. That has already made some people unhappy. But NATO had to get with it.”