There’s an eerie sense of deja vu surrounding this week’s Nato summit.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders are due to arrive at the alliance’s shiny new headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday bracing for what could be yet another bruising encounter with President Donald Trump.
The US commander-in-chief has a familiar stick to wield: the shortfall in defense spending; or as Trump puts it, allies’ refusal to “pay what they owe.” Trump has given plenty of advance warning of his line of attack, with letters dispatched to Nato leaders who don't yet meet the target of 2 per cent of gross domestic product.
Yet the risk of a blowup is all the greater given Trump’s habit of conflating defense spending with trade surpluses, a gripe that puts Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau firmly in his sights.
Then there’s the long shadow cast by Vladimir Putin, and fears in some allied capitals at what Trump might offer the Russian leader at their summit in Helsinki next Monday.
After his outburst at the Group of Seven gathering, Trump is making good on his mission to puncture multilateral institutions and remake the world order in America’s interests. NATO might just be next.