The NATO Reaction

Signals show that Trump's summit performance shook allies, piqued Russian interest.


At last week's NATO Summit, President Trump confounded transatlantic allies. He castigated European nations for free-riding, criticized Angela Merkel for letting Germany become “captive” to Russia, and called the EU a “foe” when it came to trade. Media reports and surveys have provided qualitative details about how Trump's performance eroded trust with European allies. Patterns in online data reveal where and how the summit resonated among local populations.

First, immediately following the summit, traffic surged on German-language web pages related to NATO Allied Air Command, which is based out of Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany. The site is also a US Air Force HQ, the single largest US military installation overseas in terms of personnel. That spike in attention could be negative, reflecting a greater number of Germans scrutinizing the base.


In addition, internet users from one country in particular showed an exceptional amount of interest in NATO after the summit: Russia. For instance, Russian-language interest in the North Atlantic Council, NATO's primary forum, increased significantly to reach its highest level since the start of the Trump presidency. This bump in Russian interest in NATO's core institution suggests the summit likely gained traction in the country's state-directed media, a sign that the Kremlin was keen to promote the meeting.