- Leah Millis/Reuters
- President Donald Trump on Tuesday took yet another shot at top NATO allies as he prepared to leave for a trip to Europe that will include a highly anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- He said this summit could be his “easiest” meeting.
- Trump continued his criticism of NATO, once again accusing allies of not paying their fair share.
- Trump is set to attend a NATO summit in Brussels and meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the UK prior to heading to Helsinki, Finland to meet with Putin.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday took yet another shot at top NATO allies as he prepared to leave for a trip to Europe that will include a highly anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which he said could be his “easiest” meeting.
Trump is set to attend a NATO summit in Brussels and meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the UK prior to heading to Helskinki, Finland to meet with the Russian leader.
Before boarding Marine One to start his European trip, Trump spoke with reporters on the south lawn of the White House, saying, “So I have NATO, I have the UK which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think! Who would think. But the UK certainly has a lot of things going on.”
Trump says that between NATO, Theresa May, and Putin that his meeting with Putin "may be the easiest of them all." (via FOX) pic.twitter.com/Uf8e0yDQU5
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 10, 2018
The president’s comments come as May’s government has seen top advisers resign over her approach to Brexit, including Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. Trump complimented Johnson on Tuesday as he spoke with reporters, stating he’d been “very nice” and “very supportive” prior to resigning.
‘NATO has not treated us fairly’
Meanwhile, Trump continued his criticism of NATO, once again accusing allies of not paying their fair share.
“NATO has not treated us fairly but I think we’ll work something out,” Trump said. “We pay far too much and they pay far too little.”
Similarly, earlier on Tuesday the president tweeted, “Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting – NATO. The US is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the US taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!”
Trump has routinely suggested the US provides protection for other NATO member states. NATO is an alliance founded upon the notion of collective defense, meaning all of its members have pledged to protect one another.
While it’s true that the US provides roughly 22% of NATO’s budget, this percentage is based off a carefully crafted formula that includes factors such as the size of a member state’s economy.
In 2006, NATO member states agreed to increase defense spending to at least 2% of their gross domestic product. Then, in 2014, they agreed to meet this goal by 2024. Most NATO member states have not yet reached this goal, but a number of member states are expected to break the threshold in 2019.
Trump’s claim about the trade deficit with the European Union being $151 billion is also hyperbolic, as it only takes into account goods, not services. The deficit actually $101 billion.
Trump views Putin as a ‘competitor’
In addition to stating that his meeting with Putin could be his “easiest” during his European trip, Trump also wouldn’t say whether he considered the Russian leader a friend or foe.
“I really can’t say right now,” Trump said. “As far as I’m concerned, a competitor.”
Trump’s relationship with Putin, and his inconsistent stance on Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, is perhaps one of the most scrutinized aspects of his presidency. He has often been criticized for being too soft on Putin, whom many view as a repressive leader and enemy of the US.