President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One, Tuesday, July 10, 2018, at Andrew Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Trump heads to Europe to face nervous NATO leaders

Trump is traveling on a weeklong trip to Europe on a four-nation tour, with stops in Belgium, England, Scotland and Finland.

President Donald Trump departed Tuesday on a four-nation European tour that has allies fretting over the risk of damage he could do to the decades-old NATO alliance. They’re also worried about his potential embrace of Russia’s Vladimir Putin during a summit in Helsinki.

Besides Brussels, Trump’s trip will also take him to London, where Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is in turmoil over her plans for exiting the European Union.

Trump has been pressing NATO countries to fulfil their goal of spending 2 per cent of their gross domestic products on defence by 2024. During his presidential campaign, he suggested he might only come to the defence of NATO nations that fulfilled their obligation. He continues to criticize NATO countries for not paying their fair share.

Speaking to reporters from the White House, Trump criticized allies failing to meet their obligations to the 69-year old trans-Atlantic mutual defence pact, saying, “Frankly it helps them a lot more than it helps us.”

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday in a message to Trump that “it is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem.” Tusk recalled that the Europeans are spending more than Russia and as much as China on defence. NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.

“Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting — NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, adding: “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)!”

Related: Trudeau, NATO leaders gearing up for defence spending debate with Trump

Related: Pruitt is out, handing EPA reins to former coal lobbyist

On Monday he’d tweeted the situation was “not fair, nor is it acceptable,” and insisted that NATO benefits Europe “far more than it does the U.S.”

He added: “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”

Trump, who has compared the sentiment that underpinned the Brexit vote to leave the EU to his own election, will be making his maiden presidential trip to Britain at a fraught time for May. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned within hours of each other in protest of her plan. Trump said might meet with Johnson in the UK despite his resignation.

Trump’s visit is expected to attract large protests in London and elsewhere in Britain.

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 U.S. intelligence community has concluded interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump win.

Trump told reporters he “can’t say right now” if Russian President Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe, but called him a “competitor.”

He said that of the high-stakes meetings of his trip, “Putin may be the easiest of them all.”

“I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he added.

The meeting will be closely watched to see whether Trump will rebuke or embrace Putin, who has repeatedly denied the allegations of election meddling, in spite of evidence to the contrary.

___

Colvin reported from Washington. AP writer Zeke Miller contributed from Washington.

___

Jill Colvin And Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Cops for Kids stops in Revelstoke

Locals Kurt Grabinsky and James Moore are participating in the ride

LUNA Q&A: Leila Neverland of Mountain Sound

Mountain Sound will be playing LUNA Nocturnal Art & Wonder on Sept. 29

UPDATE: Aaron Orlando drops out of the race for Revelstoke City Council

Aaron Orlando has dropped out of the race for Revelstoke City Council.… Continue reading

UPDATE: Gary Starling pulls out of city council race

Gary Starling has withdrawn from the Revelstoke city council race, though he… Continue reading

Man on scooter injured after being struck by semi on Trans-Canada Highway

Sicamous resident suffers non-life-threatening injuries, charges pending for semi driver

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

Low risk associated with case of pneumococcal disease in the South Okanagan

No identified risk to the public from recent case of pneumococcal disease with associated meningitis

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in B.C. exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

Most Read