President Donald Trump said his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin may be the easiest meeting of his upcoming trip to Europe.
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“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?” Trump told reporters at the White House as he set out on his trip to Europe.
Asked if he views Putin as a friend or foe, the president said “I really can't say right now” and instead characterized him as “a competitor.”
The president declined to criticize the longtime US adversary even as he offered more criticism for European allies, digging in on his hardline position on trade and reiterating his complaints about unequal burden-sharing among NATO partners paying into the alliance.
“We're being taken advantage of by the European Union. We lost $151 billion last year on trade,” the president told reporters. “And on top of that, we spend at least 70 percent for NATO. And, frankly, it helps them a lot more than it helps us.”
The president also broadcast his view with a presidential tweet ahead of his departure, saying the United States disproportionate contributions to NATO are “unfair” to the US taxpayer.
NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2018
Following what is expected to be a tense NATO summit given the president’s public rhetoric on his way to the meeting, he then will make his first visit to the UK as president at a time when Prime Minister Theresa May is dealing with an internal political crisis.
While the president referenced the “turmoil” in the UK, he declined to wade into the domestic political situation when asked to offer his opinion on whether May should remain in power. “Well that’s up to the people,” Trump said. “I get along with her very well. I have a very good relationship. That's certainly up to the people, not up to me.”