Monday, 23 July, 2018

Trump sees Putin meeting as easiest of tour

President Donald Trump meets with Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington Moscow drafts a blueprint for the Putin-Trump summit in Helsinki
Leonard Rios | 11 July, 2018, 12:25

Trump is expected to continue questioning wary North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies about their military spending during talks in Brussels.

US President Donald Trump has told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that Germany is "captive" to Russian Federation because it is importing energy from there.

Trump will meet the Russian leader in the Finnish capital on July 16 for their first summit amid an ongoing investigation in the U.S. into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia.

His comments were linked to the president's push for other European countries to pay more for its defence needs, in particular Germany.

"Frankly, it helps them a lot more than it helps us", he told reporters.

Trump said Tuesday he "can't say right now" if Putin is a friend or foe, but called him a "competitor".

But members fear the President may go beyond rhetoric - particularly, with a pending summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Mr Tusk recalled that the Europeans are spending more than Russian Federation and as much as China on defence.

"In terms of a government who's radically rethinking the nature of its committeemen to Europe, the British are the closest to the Trump administration on those issues", he said.

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Before taking off on Air Force One, he tweeted: "Getting ready to leave for Europe".

Trump's weeklong trip to Europe will continue with a stop in Scotland before ending with a sit-down in Helsinki with Putin, whose country the USA intelligence community has concluded interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump win.

With tensions in the Western defense alliance already running high over Trump's demands for more contributions to ease the burden on US taxpayers, and a nationalistic stance that has seen trade disputes threaten economic growth in Europe, the latest remarks will fuel concerns among allies over the USA role in keeping the peace that has reigned since World War Two.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while speaking to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during their bilateral breakfast, Wednesday, July 11, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium.

The alliance says that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by that year, based on current trends. After locking horns over tariffs and trade at the G7 summit in Canada in June, the United States president left the meeting and immediately withdrew his endorsement of the joint communiqué en route to Singapore to meet with dictator Kim Jong Un.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday in a message to Mr Trump that "it is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem". Privately some European diplomats have been shouting - well, raising their voices - at me in back hallways because of their anger over Mr Trump.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives on the continent wounded by the high-profile resignations of two senior cabinet members and Brexiteers: David Davis and Boris Johnson. "But above all, when you meet President Putin in Helsinki". "Explain that. And it can't be explained", Trump said.

The G-7 summit ended with Trump lashing out at the other members and threatening to stop all trade with them if they didn't change their practices.

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