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McCain Addresses Trump, Transatlantic Partnership on Second Day of Brussels Forum

March 24, 2017
5 min read
BRUSSELS -- Senator John McCain hasn’t met with Donald Trump since he assumed the presidency, but he speaks frequently to members of the President’s national security team.

BRUSSELS -- Senator John McCain hasn’t met with Donald Trump since he assumed the presidency, but he speaks frequently to members of the President’s national security team. “I speak almost daily to Mattis, McMaster, Dan Coates” said McCain, referring to the Trump administration’s Defense Secretary, National Security Advisor and Director of National Intelligence. He expressed hope that the President will rely on the expertise of the foreign policy professionals among his advisors. He also encouraged President Trump to reach across the aisle, pointing to the friendship President Ronald Reagan had with Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, and suggested the President “Stop tweeting.”

McCain’s remarks came as part of a discussion on the future of American power with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders on the second day of The German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum. McCain spoke frankly about his concerns for Russia’s role in destabilizing Eastern Europe, stating that Putin will test the new administration and saying, “it’s necessary to have American and European leadership to punish nations that encroach upon the sovereignty of other nations.”

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Reynders shared McCain’s concerns for Russia, stating the need “to be very strong, very firm like in Ukraine, but to have dialogue with Russia. Have real dialogue, but of course don’t be naive.”  McCain also reiterated his strong support for the transatlantic partnership, the EU, and NATO, noting that Belgium “punches above its weight” in NATO. 

McCain was not the only Brussels Forum participant skeptical of President Trump’s foreign policy leadership. Confidence in President Trump is low among thought leaders, according to results of an online poll unveiled by Bruce Stokes of the Pew Research Center during the today’s opening session. Survey data indicated that both European and U.S.  policy intellectuals hold President Donald Trump in low regard, with 94 percent describing him as arrogant, 85 percent describing him as dangerous, and only 6 percent describing him as well-qualified to be president. Confidence in German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin far exceeded confidence in President Trump among respondents, who include guests at Brussels Forum and alumni of GMF fellowship programs. The full survey findings and methodology can be found here.

Brian Lanza, who served as Trump’s deputy director of communications during his presidential campaign, painted a different picture of the Trump administration. “When we’re talking about President Trump, and what a Trump presidency means, it means a laser focus on what those priorities are,” said Lanza, describing how Trump is applying his business acumen to the early days of his administration.  Lanza blamed controversy on the press attacking Trump. “I think there’s very much a hostile environment the media has towards this administration; I think several outlets late last year made it their cause to be the network that took down Donald Trump,” said Lanza, prompting from  The Daily Beast correspondent Kim Dozier to respond that the press “do that to everybody. You get in that office, that’s what we do.”

Brussels Forum concludes tomorrow with discussions of North Korea, the Caucasus, the Middle East and other security hotspots.


In Europe: 
Sarah Halls, [email protected], +32 484 491 078

In the United States:
Kelsey Glover, [email protected], +1 513 319 6103



GMF's Brussels Forum is an annual high-level meeting of the most influential U.S., European, and global political, corporate, and intellectual leaders to address pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic. With 53 countries represented and more than 800 attendees, the 12th annual GMF's Brussels Forum includes senior officials from European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. government officials and Congressional representatives, parliamentarians, academics, and media. The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is proud to be joined by its founding partners, Daimler and the Federal Authorities of Belgium, as well as our strategic partner, Deloitte. We also extend our thanks to BP, Brussels Capital Region, Centrica, Google, and the OCP Policy Center as Forum partners. In addition, we would like to recognize our associate partners: AARP, the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia, NATO, and the Wilfried Martens Centre. We would like to acknowledge the support of our GMF's Brussels Forum Young Professionals Summit partners: the European External Action Service, Microsoft, Silver Parker Group, and the United States Mission to the European Union. GMF also recognizes POLITICO as the official digital media partner for GMF's Brussels Forum. 

The Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative Fellowship brings young European entrepreneurs pursuing ventures to the United States for an intensive program of exchange, dialogue, and guidance from hosts and mentors across the United States. The fellowship is the flagship program of the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) of the U.S. Department of State and is supported in its implementation by The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). The 2017 fellows names were announced at GMF's Brussels Forum.




Open Letter from Europe's Politicians 

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, 57 elected representatives from the EU’s national parliaments, including from Greece, Germany, Poland, Spain, Hungary, and the U.K., join forces across borders and across political parties. In an Open Letter to their colleagues across the EU, signatories vow to take on political and personal responsibility for the future of the EU. The initiators met thanks to the Mercator European Dialogue, a project coordinated by The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), and will present their initiative for the first time at Brussels Forum.