US President Donald Trump said yesterday his meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin "may be the easiest" part of his upcoming European tour as he clashed with EU allies ahead of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit.
"I would like to directly address President Trump, who has for a long time now been criticising Europe nearly daily, for, in his view, insufficient contributions to the common defence capabilities, and for living off the US".
"I want to dispel the American president's argument which says that the USA alone protects Europe against our enemies, and that the U.S.is nearly alone in this struggle", he said. Trump declined to go with either option, calling Putin a "competitor" instead.
"I think that getting along with Russian Federation, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing", he said.
Tusk too urged the Europeans to increase spending as they have promised, but said: "Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have all that many".
"We do have a lot of allies, but we can not be taken advantage of".
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While Mr Trump is looking to improve relations with Russian Federation, there has been alarm at the deteriorating climate with his allies in Europe and what he might agree to with President Putin.
In Brussels, the USA ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, defended the summit meeting - and unlike Trump criticized a series of Russian actions she called 'malign'.
'When NATO has a Russian Federation council with the Ambassador from Russian Federation, we talk about the concerns that we have about Ukraine, the concerns that we have about Crimea, ' she said. "Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years, and not paying in those past years", Trump told the leaders of member countries.
Defense spending among the 29 nations belonging to the transatlantic military alliance increased to an estimated 2.42% of gross domestic product (GDP), up from 2.4% in 2016, the organization said earlier this year.
The United Kingdom, with its eye on Brexit, is most likely to side with Mr. Trump, said Michael C. Desch, director of the Notre Dame International Security Center. "We will also work together to respond to hybrid threats and to counter terrorism", Stoltenberg said. "Charge us big tariffs and barriers". "Not fair to the US taxpayer", Trump said.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini even had some Trump-esque praise for Mr. Putin, whom he hoped to meet during a trip to Moscow for the Wold Cup final.
In office since January 2017, the U.S. president has been openly critical of many of NATO's practices, with most of his ire focusing on Washington spending relatively more money than other member states.