Trump criticizes European allies before NATO anniversary meet

•EU says will seek immediate talks with US over French digital tax

United States President Donald Trump lashed out at European allies before a NATO anniversary summit in London on Tuesday, singling out France’s Emmanuel Macron for “very nasty” comments on the alliance and Germany for spending too little on defense.

Underlining the breadth of strife in a transatlantic bloc hailed by its backers as the most successful military alliance in history, Trump demanded that Europe pay more for defense and also make concessions to US interests on trade.

The attack echoed a similar tirade by Trump ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s last summit in July 2018.

It will add to the growing doubts over the future of the 29-member alliance, described last month by Macron as “brain dead” in the run-up to a London meeting intended to be a 70th-anniversary celebration.

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“It’s a tough statement, though, when you make a statement like that, that is a very, very nasty statement to essentially 28, including them, 28 countries,” Trump told reporters as he met the head of NATO in London.

“Nobody needs NATO more than France,” he said, adding that France, where Macron is seeking to push through delicate reforms of a large state sector, was “not doing well economically”.

In an interview with the Economist last month, Macron made headlines by faulting NATO for failing to update its strategy to respond to newer threats such as instability in Syria.

Trump explicitly linked his complaint that Europe does not pay enough for NATO’s security missions to his staunch “America First” defense of US commercial interests, saying it was time for Europe to “shape up” on both fronts.

“It’s not right to be taken advantage of on NATO and also then to be taken advantage of on trade, and that’s what happens. We can’t let that happen,” he said of transatlantic disputes over everything from the aerospace sector to a European “digital tax” on U.S. technology giants.

Dismissing recent signals from Germany that it was ready to do more to match a NATO target of spending two percent of national output on defense, Trump accused it and other nations that spend less than that of being “delinquent”.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who shared omelet and sausages with Trump over breakfast, tweeted that the pre-summit talks had got off to an “excellent start”.

“If our friends at NATO do not recognize as terrorist organizations those we consider terrorist organizations… we will stand against any step that will be taken there,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said before traveling to London.

Erdogan, who has already strained alliance ties with a move to buy Russian air defense systems, said he would meet Polish President Andrzej Duda and leaders of Baltic countries.

The question mark over the Baltics’ plan, which was drawn up at their request after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, raises issues about security on all of NATO’s frontiers.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) will seek immediate talks with the United States on how to solve a dispute over France’s new digital service tax, the EU delegation to the United States said on Tuesday.

“We remain of the view that the WTO (World Trade Organization) is the place to address any trade disputes,” a representative of the EU delegation said in a statement. “The European Union will, therefore, seek immediate discussions with the United States on how to solve this issue amicably to prevent a dispute at the WTO.”

 

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