President Trump at NATO Presser: Putin is ‘Not My Enemy’, It’s Not About ‘Enemy’, ‘He’s Not My Enemy’

During his surprise press conference today at the end of the NATO summit in Brussels, President Trump was asked if he admires Vladimir Putin since he compliments the latter so often.

Trump called the Russian leader a “competitor” rather than a friend or enemy at the start of this week, so a reporter wanted to know if he thinks the two will get along well once they hold their meeting in the next few days. Trump said he doesn’t “know Putin well enough” even though they got along during previous meetings together, but he mostly deferred to the “competitor” label again.

“He’s representing Russia. I’m representing the United States. So, n a sense, we’re competitors. Not a question of friend or enemies. He’s not my enemy, and hopefully someday, maybe he’ll be a friend. It could happen, BUT I just don’t know him very well.”

Russia was a recurring subject of interest throughout the presser, so Trump was asked about matters such as whether Russia is a “security threat,” and whether he’ll ask Putin if Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

[Mediaite]

As Trump Criticizes NATO, E.U. Leader Warns: You ‘Won’t Have a Better Ally’

President Trump renewed his criticism of European allies on Tuesday and said he was most optimistic about meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, as he departed for a summit meeting in Brussels that threatens to highlight acrimony within NATO.

Mr. Trump’s comments touched off a round of trans-Atlantic sniping with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, that was sure to start the NATO meeting on a tense note.

“The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter of the other members of the Atlantic alliance, hours before Air Force One left for Belgium. “Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer.”

He complained anew about trade deficits with the European Union, and seemed to threaten to cut American military spending in a bid to compel other NATO members to increase theirs.

“NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS,” Mr. Trump said in a separate tweet. “Very Unfair!”

The complaints reflected the degree to which Mr. Trump is coming into the summit meeting focused on his anger with NATO and his conviction that the alliance exploits American largess to the detriment of the United States. That is a stark departure from previous American presidents of both parties, who have tended to regard the alliance as an invaluable force for collective defense that reflects shared values among its members.

Mr. Trump’s remarks exacerbated concerns that he may torpedo the meeting that begins on Wednesday, and with it, the alliance’s efforts to show unity and solidarity in the face of global threats, including from Russia.

“Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all — who would think?” Mr. Trump said of his discussions over the next week, which include the NATO gathering, a working visit on Friday with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, whose government is in turmoil; and his first summit meeting with the Russian president on Monday in Helsinki, Finland.

Mr. Trump’s tweets prompted a tart retort from Mr. Tusk, who answered back on Twitter saying that Europe was a friend worth protecting, unlike other countries with which Mr. Trump has cultivated relationships.

“Dear @realDonaldTrump,” Mr. Tusk wrote. “US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU. We spend on defense much more than Russia and as much as China. I hope you have no doubt this is an investment in our security, which cannot be said with confidence about Russian & Chinese spending.”

In comments following the signing of a joint European Union-NATO declaration, Mr. Tusk said he wanted to address Mr. Trump’s near-daily criticism of Europe and complaints that countries are “living off the U.S.”

“Appreciate your allies,” Mr. Tusk said. “After all, you don’t have that many.”

Mr. Tusk, the president of the body that represents leaders of European Union member states, many of which are also in NATO, has a history of publicly challenging Mr. Trump, at a time when many foreign leaders are wary of the American president but reluctant to criticize him openly.

Last month, he said that Mr. Trump’s politics had put trans-Atlantic relations “under tremendous pressure” and warned Europeans to prepare for darker times. In May, he tweeted that Mr. Trump’s decisions could prompt the question, “With friends like that, who needs enemies.”

On Tuesday, as he left the White House for the short helicopter ride to Andrews Air Force Base to begin his trip to Europe, Mr. Trump seemed unmoved by Mr. Tusk’s latest pushback.

“Well, we do have a lot of allies, but we cannot be taken advantage of,” the president said, when asked about Mr. Tusk’s comments. “We’re being taken advantage of by the European Union.

“We lost $151 billion last year on trade, and on top of that we spend at least 70 percent for NATO, and frankly it helps them a lot more than it helps us. So we’ll see what happens.”

[The New York Times]

Trump suggests NATO members reimburse US for defense costs

President Trump on Tuesday suggested countries that haven’t made their full contributions to fund the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should reimburse the U.S., further stoking his feud with members of the alliance as he travels to Brussels to meet with NATO leaders.

“Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2% (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made. Will they reimburse the U.S.?” Trump tweeted.

The president sent the tweet as he traveled on Air Force One to Belgium, where he will take part in the annual NATO summit with other world leaders that is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

Trump has long been critical of what he views as the U.S. taking on a disproportionate burden in funding NATO, but he has ratcheted up those complaints in the days leading up to the summit.

NATO members agreed in 2014 to move toward spending at least 2 percent of their respective gross domestic product (GDP) on defense by 2024.

Trump reportedly wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other NATO allies last month to chastise them for failing to live up to their spending obligations. He further warned that the U.S. could alter its military deployments if nothing changes.

On Tuesday morning, just before he was set to depart for Brussels, Trump tweeted that the funding burden was unfair to American taxpayers, adding that other countries should pay more and the U.S. should pay less for NATO.

Trump went on to tell reporters on the White House lawn that he believes he’ll be able to “work something out” with other member countries.

“NATO has not treated us fairly but I think we’ll work something out. We pay far too much and they pay far too little,” Trump said. “But we will work it out and all countries will be happy.”

[The Hill]

Trump fires warning shot at allies before leaving for NATO meeting: ‘US must pay less — very unfair!’

President Donald Trump railed against NATO allies before boarding Air Force One for the annual meeting in Europe.

The president has ramped up his complaints about the decades-old alliance in recent weeks, and he fired off two tweets early Tuesday before departing for the meeting with allied leaders.

“Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting – NATO,” the president tweeted. “The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!”

Trump will also visit Great Britain and then Helsinki, Finland, for a private, one-on-one-meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose country’s most important strategic goal is the weakening of NATO.

“NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!” Trump tweeted.

[Raw Story]

Trump’s private NATO trashing rattles allies

You’ve already read a hundred stories about President Trump’s clashes with some of America’s closest allies at the G7 summit in Canada. But we’ve got new details from his private conversations with heads of state that have put some of these leaders on edge leading into next month’s NATO summit.

What we’re hearing: In one extraordinary riff during his meeting with the G7 heads of state earlier this month in Quebec, Trump told the other leaders: “NATO is as bad as NAFTA.” An official read this quote to me from notes transcribed from the private meeting.

Behind the scenes: Trump made the comment after telling the G7 leaders that Crimea probably should belong to Russia because everyone there speaks Russian, the source added. Trump then went on his usual riff about Germany not paying its fair share of defense spending, said the Europeans weren’t paying enough and that the U.S. is being ripped off.

  • Then Trump said of the NATO Summit on July 11-12 in Brussels: “It will be an interesting summit. NATO is as bad as NAFTA. It’s much too costly for the U.S.”

Why this matters: NATO member states are worried about Russian aggression and they want an unambiguous sign that America has their back. By linking NATO to NAFTA — a trade deal that Trump considers an unmitigated disaster for America — Trump reinforced some of the Europeans’ worst fears that he’ll take a purely transactional approach to next month’s summit.

  • Officials from four NATO member countries have told me they’re worried Trump undercut the shared values and commitments of the NATO alliance by spending most of his time bashing NATO members for not “paying enough” and meeting their defense spending commitments.
  • Trump is broadly correct about the defense spending. Many NATO members have been shirking their responsibilities and are nowhere near their promise to spend 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product on defense.
  • But, as one senior European official put it to me: Trump could do a victory lap of sorts at next month’s summit, instead of bashing NATO members (which would please Putin.)
  • Trump, the official said, could point out that NATO members have been increasing their defense spending, and say that it’s only because of his pressure. The official said he hoped — but wasn’t confident — Trump would take this gentler, more diplomatic route.

When Axios shared this reporting with the White House, officials did not attempt to deny these specific comments that were relayed from notes from the G7 heads of state meeting. But NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis said: “The president engaged in a constructive dialogue with his counterparts at G7. Any allegations otherwise are simply wrong.”

1 fun thing: In the same meeting, Trump cracked to the leaders about what was then his upcoming Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un. “It’s like baseball,” Trump told the G7 leaders, according to the source reading from the meeting notes. “You never know if you are going to hit the ball.”

[Axios]

Trump told me ‘You’re a brutal killer’, EU’s Juncker says

Jean-Claude Juncker has been called many things during his premiership of Luxembourg and presidency of the European Commission, but probably never what he says U.S. President Donald Trump called him at the weekend: “a brutal killer”.

Juncker, who attended a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven major powers in Canada last week, spoke about his encounter with Trump in a speech to Bavaria’s regional assembly in Munich on Thursday.

“Trump told me last week: ‘Jean-Claude – you are a brutal killer’,” Juncker said. “It is the first time Luxembourg has become such a danger to the United States. I think he meant it as a compliment, but I am not sure.”

The G7 summit failed to heal a growing rift between the United States and the other powers, many of which Trump accuses of trade policies that unfairly disadvantage the United States.

European Union countries on Thursday unanimously backed a plan to impose import duties on 2.8 billion euros’ ($3.3 billion) worth of U.S. products in response to U.S. tariffs on EU steel and aluminum, EU sources said.

“We cannot leave the tariffs unanswered. I’m not in a mood for war at all but I do not accept that we are dictated from elsewhere what we have to do in Europe,” Juncker said. “This is an independent continent. Many have fought for this.”

[Reuters]

Trump Reportedly Told G7 Leaders Crimea is Part of Russia Because They Speak Russian

A new report suggests that Donald Trump parroted Vladimir Putin last week when he spoke to his fellow world leaders about re-admiting Russia into the G7.

Trump bemoaned Putin’s absence throughout the international gathering, which added to the contentiousness as he spoke with foreign dignitaries in Toronto. Diplomatic sources told Buzzfeed that when when Trump engaged with world leaders over dinner, he spoke of how Crimea is Russian because so many people who live there speak the language.

From the report:

During the dinner, Trump also seemed to question why the G7 leaders were siding with Ukraine. The president told leaders that “Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” the source said.

Russia used to be part of the former G8, but they were expelled over the 2014 invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Putin often justifies the intervention campaign by saying Russia had to protect the citizens living in the region.

Trump defended his comments in an interview last night, telling Fox New’s Bret Baier that if Putin was in Quebec, he could’ve asked him to pull Russia out of Syria and Ukraine as a “favor.” Baier reminded Trump why Russia was kicked out of the G8, though POTUS responded that Putin didn’t respect Barack Obama‘s leadership, even though the former president led the charge for Putin’s expulsion.

[Mediaite]

Trump rips Canada, NATO in Singapore tweetstorm

President Donald Trump started his day in Singapore on Monday blasting the Canadian Prime Minister and slamming NATO just after meeting with the U.S. allies at the G-7 meeting in Quebec.

“Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal,” Trump tweeted Monday morning in Singapore. “According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!). Minimum is 17B. Tax Dairy from us at 270%. Then Justin acts hurt when called out!”

Trump was referring to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the tweet.

The president has accused Canada of taking advantage of American workers through their trade practices.

According to the U.S. trade representative, however, there was an $8.4 billion U.S. trade surplus with Canada on goods and services in 2017.

Trump also took aim at NATO for relying too heavily on the U.S. for their security.

“The U.S. pays close to the entire cost of NATO-protecting many of these same countries that rip us off on Trade (they pay only a fraction of the cost-and laugh!),” Trump tweeted. “The European Union had a $151 Billion Surplus-should pay much more for Military!”

The U.S. pays 22% of NATO’s budget — higher than any other nation.

The U.S. has pushed NATO member nations to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP — a benchmark some have been unable to meet.

Trump was in Singapore preparing for his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!” Trump wrote.

[New York Post]

Donald Trump warns NATO members will be ‘dealt with’ if they refuse to pay more for military alliance

Donald Trump singled out Germany in renewing his criticism of Nato members he accuses of not contributing enough, saying laggards would be “dealt with”.

Speaking alongside Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, at the White House, Mr Trump reiterated a longstanding charge that America bears a disproportionate share of supporting the military alliance’s activities.

Germany “has not contributed what it should be contributing and it’s a very big beneficiary”, said the president, who has long had a frosty relationship with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

The president’s world view is rooted in a belief that the US has consistently been taken advantage of by international pacts and organisations – a scepticism that fuels his unilaterally focused “America First” stance.

During the presidential campaign, he suggested America might only defend Nato allies if they had “fulfilled their obligations to us”.

Despite Mr Trump’s wariness, Mr Stoltenberg praised the president for impelling other nations to augment defense spending, saying “it is impacting allies because now all allies are increasing defense spending”.

During the presidential campaign, he suggested America might only defend Nato allies if they had “fulfilled their obligations to us”.

Despite Mr Trump’s wariness, Mr Stoltenberg praised the president for impelling other nations to augment defence spending, saying “it is impacting allies because now all allies are increasing defence spending”.

[The Independent]

Media

Trump Fires Back at Merkel, Says Germany is ‘Very Bad’ For The US

President Donald Trump has criticized Germany once again for its large trade surplus with the U.S. and its low contributions to NATO, saying this attitude is “very bad” for the United States.

The comments made on Twitter take current tensions in U.S.-German relations a notch higher.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said at an election rally on Sunday that Germany and the European Union can no longer rely on the United States.

“The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over,” she told the rally in Munich.

“I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands,” she said. Her comments came as she steps up her campaign in the September federal election.

The image of friendly relations between Germany and the U.S. seems distant since Trump took office. His administration has previously said that Germany’s trade surplus is a result of the country’s manipulation of the euro.

Germany fought back arguing that it doesn’t have powers to manipulate the euro and the only reason consumers opt for its products is because they are more competitive.

Data released last February by the German Federal Statistics Office showed that Germany’s trade surplus rose to 252.9 billion euros ($270.05 billion) in 2016, surpassing the previous high of 244.3 billion euros in 2015. If it were a single trade partner, Germany would be the fifth largest in total trade flows with the U.S. But it runs the third largest trade surplus, after China and Japan.

Meanwhile, contributions to the defense alliance NATO has emerged as another problem between Berlin and Washington. Trump has repeatedly asked NATO allies to step up their contributions. At the moment, only 5 of the 28 members fulfill the target of paying at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

According to NATO data, Germany is currently spending 1.2 percent of its GDP on NATO. The U.S. spends 3.6 percent.

At a summit last week, Germany, like other NATO members, vowed to present an action plan on how it will increase defense spending. At the time, Trump told his allies they were being unfair toward U.S. taxpayers.

[CNBC]

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