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

Fire at Cultus Lake closes the road

Vehicle fire caused column of black smoke to billow over the lake

Fraser Valley coach keeps coming back to guide kids at the BC Summer Games

Behind the 2,300 B.C. athletes are the 450 coaches who dedicate time to help train, compete

Man arrested in Maple Ridge in connection with Victoria-area murder

Daniel Creagh faces second-degree murder charge in death of Joseph Gauthier

Hot weather returning to Chilliwack

Temperatures expected to climb into the low 30s starting Sunday

UPDATE: Abbotsford police seek info from public after man, 32, found dead

IHIT identifies victim as Sukhpreet Grewal, who they say was known to police

BC Games: Day 3 wrap and closing ceremonies

The torch in the Cowichan Valley has been extinguished as Fort St. John gets ready to host the 2020 BC Winter Games

Police confirm girl, 8 others injured in Toronto shooting; shooter dead

Paramedics said many of the victims in Danforth, including a child, were rushed to trauma centres

Gold medallists at BC Games only trained together for 1 day

Ryan Goudron, Nathan Chan, Owen Pinto and Praise Aniamaka from Zone 4 - Fraser River ran together for the first time

Five taken to hospital after one of two Coquihalla accidents

One airlifted in critical condition, four taken via ambulance in stable condition

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Lower Mainland teams battle for baseball gold at BC Games

Vancouver Coastal squeaked out a 3-2 win against Fraser Valley

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw people signed an agreement-in-principle with the B.C. government

The signing ceremony, at the Eliza Archie Memorial School, was 25 years in the making

Canada to resettle dozens of White Helmets and their families from Syria

There are fears the volunteers would become a target for government troops

Francesco Molinari wins British Open at Carnoustie

It is his first win at a major and the first by an Italian

Most Read