Saturday 23 March 2019

Trump calls EU global foe as he arrives in Finland for Putin summit

Donald Trump and his top aides were downplaying expectations for Monday’s meeting.

Donald Trump has low expectations of his meeting with Putin (Chris Jackson/PA)
Donald Trump has low expectations of his meeting with Putin (Chris Jackson/PA)

By Jill Colvin, Associated Press

US President Donald Trump has named the EU a top adversary of the United States and denounced the news media as the “enemy of the people” before arriving in Helsinki on the eve of his high-stakes summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Trump and his top aides were downplaying expectations for Monday’s summit as Trump continued to rattle allies by lumping in the EU with Russia and China after barnstorming across Europe, causing chaos at the recent Nato summit and in a trip to the UK.

Trump spent the weekend in Scotland at his resort in Turnberry, golfing, tweeting and granting an interview to CBS News in which he put the EU at the top of his list of biggest global foes.

“I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade,” Trump said, adding that “you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe.”

He said that Russia is a foe “in certain respects” and that China is a foe “economically … but that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive”.

Trump has been reluctant to criticise Putin over the years and has described him in recent days not as an enemy but as a competitor.

Teppo Marttila, dressed as Uncle Sam, participates in the demonstration by the True Finns youth members in support of Donald Trump (AP)

On Sunday, Trump flew to Finland, the final stop on a weeklong trip that began last Tuesday.

Near Trump’s hotel, police roped off a group of about 60 mostly male pro-Trump demonstrators waving American flags.

A rally against US president Donald Trump in Helsinki (AP)

Big banners said “Welcome Trump” and “God Bless D & M Trump” and a helicopter hovered overhead.

Chants of “We love Trump, We love Trump” broke out as the president’s motorcade passed, and Trump waved.

Trump set expectations for the summit low, telling CBS News: “I don’t expect anything. … I go in with very low expectations. ”

His national security adviser said they weren’t looking for any “concrete deliverables”.

He also said in the interview, taped Saturday, that he “hadn’t thought” about asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted this past week in Washington on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

But after being given the idea by his interviewer, Trump said; “Certainly I’ll be asking about it.”

In the CBS News interview, Trump declined to discuss his goals for the summit – “I’ll let you know after the meeting,” he said – but said he believes such sessions are beneficial.

He cited his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June as a “good thing,” along with meetings he has had with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Nothing bad is going to come out of” the Helsinki meeting, he said, “and maybe some good will come out”.

From aboard Air Force One, Trump complained in tweets that he was not getting enough credit for his meeting with Kim and railed that “Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people” as he headed to sit down with Putin.

Trump complained: “No matter how well I do at the Summit,” he’ll face “criticism that it wasn’t good enough”.

“If I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough — that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!” he tweeted.

Trump also praised Putin for holding the World Cup, which ended Sunday.

Trump and Putin have held talks several times before. Their first meeting came last July when both took part in an international summit and continued for more than two hours, well over the scheduled 30 minutes.

The leaders also met last autumn during a separate summit in Vietnam.

Press Association

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