Ahead of President Donald Trump’s first NATO summit in Brussels Thursday, it was former President Obama who was making headlines abroad, appearing to take a jab at his successor during a joint speech with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
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Without mentioning President Trump by name, Obama spoke about the need to stay connected to the globalized world and face wars, poverty and other challenges together.
“In this world that we live in, we can’t isolate ourselves. We can’t hide behind a wall,” the former U.S. president said in his first speech in Europe since leaving the Oval Office in January. President Trump has been criticized by some Democrats for a strong immigration policy that includes the construction of a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Obama also touted his accomplishments during his tenure as president, focusing on the Affordable Care Act, which he indicated was now in danger due to the current administration’s push for repeal.
"My hope was to get 100 percent of people health care. We didn't quite achieve that but we were able to get 20 million people health care who didn't have it before,” he said. “Now some of the progress we made is imperiled because a significant debate is taking place in the United States."
On Wednesday the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the GOP’s American Health Care Act, an effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, estimating it would lower premiums, provide stability to the health care market, but leave 23 million additional individuals uninsured through the year 2026.
The relationship between President Trump and German Chancellor Merkel has been tumultuous since the election cycle. The president criticized Germany’s open border policy, calling it a “mistake.” He has also gone after Germany for its trade practices and its failure to live up to its financial obligations as a member of NATO.
While President Trump, who is ending a nine-day trip throughout the Middle East and Europe, addressed the global fight against terror during Thursday’s NATO summit, he also brought up member contributions to the transatlantic military alliance. The administration, led by tough rhetoric from the president, has assumed a strong position on the need for NATO members to meet the 2 percent-of-GDP contribution threshold. The U.S. government spent 3.6 percent of GDP, or $664 billion, on defense last year, far outpacing all other members. Out of all 28 countries that belonged to NATO at the start of this year, only five met the minimum contribution level in 2016—the U.S., Greece, the U.K., Estonia and Poland.
On Thursday British Prime Minister Theresa May also announced she will confront President Trump at the summit about White House leaks to the media. Specifically, she mentioned images leaked to the press related to the terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on Monday.