Trump to open trip by meeting with nervous NATO leaders

“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,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning.

July 10, 2018 04:57 pm | Updated 04:57 pm IST - WASHINGTON:

 In this May 25, 2017 file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg take a seat during a working dinner at a NATO summit in Brussels. When Donald Trump walks into a NATO summit Wednesday, July 11, 2018, international politics are bound to become intensely personal again.

In this May 25, 2017 file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg take a seat during a working dinner at a NATO summit in Brussels. When Donald Trump walks into a NATO summit Wednesday, July 11, 2018, international politics are bound to become intensely personal again.

President Donald Trump’s four-nation European tour 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.

The trip that begins on Tuesday in Brussels will also take Mr. Trump to London, where Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is in turmoil over her plans for exiting the European Union.

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

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.” Mr. Tusk recalled that the Europeans are spending more than Russia and as much as China on defense. 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,” Mr. Trump tweeted on 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)!”

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.”

Mr. 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 Ms. May. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned within hours of each other in protest of her plan.

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

Mr. 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 Mr. Trump win.

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

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