Cameron defends ‘entirely proper’ meeting with Trump as he claims he’s not in US to ‘lecture anybody’ on Ukraine funding

Ex-president and Lord Cameron discussed wide range of topics including Brexit, Ukraine, and the Nato alliance

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 09 April 2024 21:45 BST
UK should mourn deaths of British aid workers killed in Gaza, says Cameron.mp4

Former President Donald Trump held a meeting with David Cameron on Monday evening, one day before the foreign secretary was due in Washington to meet with his counterpart in the Biden administration, Antony Blinken.

The ex-president dined with Lord Cameron at his Mar-a-Lago estate where the two discussed a wide range of topics including Brexit, Ukraine, and the Nato alliance, according to a readout from Mr Trump’s team. The two were joined by Karen Pierce, the British ambassador to the United States.

“Among the topics discussed were the upcoming US and UK elections, policy matters specific to Brexit, the need for NATO countries to meet their defense spending requirements, and ending the killing in Ukraine,” read a statement from the Trump campaign.

It continued: “President Trump, Secretary Cameron and Ambassador Pierce also discussed their mutual admiration for the late Queen Elizabeth II.”

Lord Cameron went on to defend the optics of that meeting as “entirely proper” on Tuesday at a joint presser alongside Mr Blinken, noting that US officials had recently met with Labour leader Keir Starmer and his own past meeting with Mitt Romney when Mr Romney, now a retiring one-term senator from Utah, was running for president.

He declined to go into specifics about his conversation with the former president while stressing that he was not planning to “lecture anybody” on the importance of funding Ukraine’s defence against a Russian invasion force. The former prime minister’s past criticism of Mr Trump likely made the Monday dinner a somewhat awkward affair on Mr Cameron’s part, though the twice-impeached ex-president is more than used to critics turning over a new leaf. Lord Cameron was quizzed on his past references to Mr Trump as a misogynist and criticism of his “protectionist” worldview on Tuesday as he stood before reporters at the State Department. Unshaking in his refusal to be drawn into a conflict with Mr Trump or anyone else, the foreign secretary refused to comment on the meeting with Trump itself while explaining that he sometimes dropped diplomatic “niceties” over the issue of Ukraine because the issue made him “emotional”.

“It’s the right thing for us to [help Ukraine],” an impassioned Lord Cameron told reporters.

Mr Trump has not commented on the meeting in a post to his Truth Social account or even released his own statement through representatives. In typical fashion, the former president’s feed on Tuesday was consumed with re-truths of articles attacking the credibility of the criminal cases against him, his 2024 rival Joe Biden, and the mainstream media.

Other details surrounding the dinner have been sparse.

The relevance of Lord Cameron’s visit to Mar-a-Lago could hardly be higher; his trip comes as Mr Trump is raising more questions than ever before about the future of the Nato alliance — due to mark its 75th anniversary this year. The ex-president raised alarm bells across Europe and in Washington in February with a remark at a campaign rally regarding the alliance and its Article 5 mutual defence pledge.

“If we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?” Trump at the time claimed to remember a Nato member-state’s leader asking him, recalling a moment of his presidency. He then claimed to have responded: “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”

That quip was labelled by many as an invitation to Russia for further predations in Ukraine and future confrontations with Nato members who fail to meet the alliance’s defence spending benchmarks. Most members of the alliance do not meet the stated goals of spending two per cent of their respective countries’ GDP on defence.

It was immediately pounced on by the Biden campaign while Republicans in Washington DC spent a news cycle dodging questions or explaining away the president’s rhetoric in cable news interviews.

Now, Mr Trump has seemingly softened his supposed threat, but the intent of his rhetoric has not shifted.

“Why should we guard these countries that have a lot of money?” he asked Brexit architect Nigel Farage in an interview in March.

“Now they're paying because of those comments that you saw two or three weeks ago,” he added to Mr Farage. “I don't know if you know, but a lot of money’s come in since those comments were made. Nato was not paying.”

Those comments referred to a report which emerged a few days after his initial remarks — the results of months of politicking between Nato countries, not Mr Trump’s threat — indicating that 18 Nato countries were on course to meet defence targets this year.

Mr Trump remains the presumptive Republican nominee for president after defeating his final rival in the GOP primary, Nikki Haley, in March.

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