Trump sees Putin meeting as easiest of tour

Donald Trump said yesterday his meeting with Vladimir Putin "may be the easiest" part of his upcoming European tour as he clashed with EU allies ahead of a NATO summit.

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 NATO summit.

Trump left Washington early yesterday for Brussels where leaders from the 29 members of the NATO alliance are hoping for a show of unity despite stark transatlantic tensions on a host of issues.

Speaking about his upcoming meetings on his European tour, including his first summit with Putin next Monday in Helsinki, Trump said “frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think?”

He vowed not to be “taken advantage” of by the European Union, which he accuses of freeloading by relying on the United States for its defense while blocking US imports into the bloc, the world’s biggest market.

“It’s certainly going to be an interesting time with NATO,” Trump said. “NATO has not treated us fairly but I think we will work something out. We pay far too much and they pay far too little.”

The meeting of Western leaders in Brussels has the potential to turn into another public bust-up following a divisive and bad-tempered summit of G7 nations in Canada in June.

The summit is seen as one of the most difficult in years amid fears that Trump will turn even more hostile about an alliance that has underpinned European security for 70 years.

With French and German officials urging member states to paper over their differences, EU President Donald Tusk delivered a blunt message to Trump yesterday, telling him “the US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than the EU.”

“I would like to address President Trump directly who for a long time now has been criticizing Europe almost daily,” the former Polish prime minister told a press conference.

“Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many,” he added, before reminding Trump that European troops had fought alongside Americans in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

“Please remember this tomorrow when we meet at the NATO summit, but above all when you meet President Putin in Helsinki. It is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem,” he said.

Trump will meet Putin in the Finnish capital on Monday for their first summit amid an ongoing investigation in the US into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia.

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