Wednesday 26 September 2018

'Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all' - Donald Trump on his trip to the UK, NATO and Russia

First lady Melania Trump looks on as President Donald Trump speaks with reporters at the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)
First lady Melania Trump looks on as President Donald Trump speaks with reporters at the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

Press Association

US President Donald Trump has said the UK was in turmoil and suggested that his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin would be the easiest of his trip to Europe to see Nato leaders and Prime Minister Theresa May.

Speaking as he boarded Marine One, Mr Trump said: "It's going to be an interesting time in the UK and an interesting time at Nato. We will work it out and all countries will be happy.

US President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he walks with first lady Melania Trump at the White House. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he walks with first lady Melania Trump at the White House. Photo: Reuters

"So I have Nato, I have the UK - that's a situation with turmoil. And I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of all."

"We do have a lot of allies. But we cannot be taken advantage of. We're being taken advantage of by the European Union. We spend 75pc on Nato and frankly, it helps them more than it helps us."

Asked about Boris Johnson's resignation, Mr Trump added: "Boris Johnson is a friend of mine. He's been very, very supportive and very nice to me. Maybe I'll speak to him when I get over there."

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was "looking forward" to speaking with Donald Trump, adding: "We will be talking positively about how we can continue to work together in our special relationship for the good of people living in the UK and the United States and, actually, for the wider good."

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump cross the South Lawn upon arrival at the White House on July 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. The First Family spent the weekend at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump cross the South Lawn upon arrival at the White House on July 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. The First Family spent the weekend at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images)

In a tweet posted before his departure, Mr Trump put European allies on notice that he will be taking a tough stance on their contributions to the military alliance, as well as barriers to US trade.

But European Council President Donald Tusk hit back with his own message on the social media site, insisting that the US has no better ally than the EU.

In a pointed apparent reference to Mr Trump's upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Tusk noted that European military spending "is an investment in our security, which cannot be said with confidence about Russian and Chinese spending".

Mr Trump has repeatedly complained that the US is left to provide the lion's share of funding for trans-Atlantic defence, as European states fail to meet Nato's target of spending 2% of GDP on the military.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump cross the South Lawn upon arrival at the White House on July 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. The First Family spent the weekend at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump cross the South Lawn upon arrival at the White House on July 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. The First Family spent the weekend at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images)

This week's two-day summit, beginning on Wednesday at Nato's new HQ in the Belgian capital, is expected to be dominated by US demands for increased spending by other members of the 29-nation alliance.

Mr Trump said: "The US 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)!"

And he added: "NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!"

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Singapore last month (Kevin Lim/The Straits Times/AP)
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Singapore last month (Kevin Lim/The Straits Times/AP)

Minutes later, Mr Tusk tweeted: "Dear Donald Trump. 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."

Britain is one of just five Nato nations to meet the 2% target, but Theresa May is expected to face pressure to increase budgets when she joins other leaders in Brussels.

The meeting comes ahead of Mr Trump's four-day working visit to the UK, during which he will hold talks with Mrs May at Chequers, meet the Queen in Windsor Castle and spend two days in Scotland preparing for Monday's face-to-face summit with Mr Putin in Finland.

Responding to Mr Trump's comments, Mrs May's official spokesman said: "This is something that the President has said on other occasions.

"The UK has itself on a number of occasions urged everybody to work towards meeting that 2% target, which we of course do meet and exceed."

Read more here: Trump says he still has Rocket Man CD for Kim Jong Un

Why is Donald Trump putting the Nato alliance in the firing line?

Press Association

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