Monday, 22 July, 2019

Trump hails Boris Johnson as ‘a friend’

This week’s summit in Brussels could expose cracks in the Nato alliance This week’s summit in Brussels could expose cracks in the Nato allianceWAKIL KOHSAR AFP GETTY IMAGES
Deanna Wagner | 11 July, 2018, 01:55

The report emerged ahead of a scheduled North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit at Brussels on Tuesday.

During the president's seven-day tour through Europe, he plans to stop in Helsinki on July 16 for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump's relationship with Putin, and his inconsistent stance on Russia's interference in the 2016 USA presidential election, is perhaps one of the most scrutinized aspects of his presidency. "The US is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them".

But he suggested that he might take time during his United Kingdom visit to speak with former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who he described as "a friend of mine".

While countries closer to Russian Federation, such as Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Poland, significantly boosted defense, most other members took a more relaxed approach, with Germany's defense minister saying in 2015 that she didn't see a need to meet the spending bar, Deutsche Welle reported.

"Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have that many", Mr Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, said.

Speaking with a gaggle of reporters as he left the White House on Tuesday, Trump was asked if he considered Putin a friend or foe.

European officials say while United States defence spending makes up 70 percent of combined allied governments' military budgets, and just 15 percent of U.S. expenditure is spent in Europe on NATO-related defence.

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At the time, Johnson was Mayor of London and said Trump was talking "complete and utter nonsense".

"Thank you to all of my great supporters, really big progress being made", Trump tweeted.

The president touted that the United States lost $151 billion previous year on trade and slapped tariffs on other countries in an effort towards free and fair trade.

According to an internal European Union memo obtained by Bloomberg and using BEA figures, when including trade in goods, trade in services and primary income from investments, the USA has a 12 billion-euro surplus with the EU.

"But we can not be taken advantage of", Trump added. In March 2016 he said it was "obsolete and disproportionately too expensive" and on Monday, ahead of the summit, he suggested (on Twitter, of course), that "by some accounts, the USA is paying for 90% of Nato" and on Tuesday raged: "NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. There has been this tension, which has been a long-running factor ... but I'm pretty positive on the relationship overall", the State Department official said.

The hint of USA withdrawal from Europe, while unlikely, indeed seems to have made many countries hike their defense spending.

According to a joint declaration prepared in advance of the summit, which was seen by AFP, NATO members will make an "unwavering commitment to all aspects of the defence investment pledge agreed at the 2014 Wales Summit" which includes the 2.0-percent target.