EU, Donald Trump at odds on Russia, trade, climate, says European Council President Donald Tusk

US President Donald Trump with European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium on May 25, 2017.
US President Donald Trump with European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium on May 25, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) – The European Union and United States  President Donald Trump seem to have differing positions on dealing with Russia, climate change and global trade, European Council President Donald Tusk said after talks with Trump on Thursday (May 25).

Tusk said in a televised statement that the two leaders agreed on countering militant violence and on relations with Ukraine: “We discussed foreign policy, security, climate and trade relations,” Tusk, a former Polish prime minister who chairs meetings of the 28 EU leaders, said in Brussels after he and EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker met Trump for an hour. 

“My feeling is that we agreed on many areas, first and foremost on counter-terrorism.” “But some issues remain open like climate and trade and I am not 100 per cent sure that we can say today – ‘we’ means Mr President and myself – that we have a common position, common opinion, about Russia, although when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine it seems that we were on the same lines.”

Trump had voiced scepticism about the EU's value and hailed Britain's Brexit vote to quit the bloc while campaigning for the US elections. 

Trump is on the fourth leg of his first foreign trip since taking office.

On Thursday, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) leaders will also press Trump to publicly support the Nato military alliance that he called “obsolete” during his campaign, facing a potentially cooler welcome than in the Middle East.  

 

The Republican president, midway through his first foreign trip since taking office, enjoyed favourable receptions in Riyadh and Jerusalem, where leaders lauded his harsh words for Iran.  Praise looks to be in shorter supply at the Nato  unless Trump pledges unwavering support. 

“I am confident that under constructive leadership of President  Trump,  Nato will continue  to play a key role in transatlantic security and defence,” Estonia’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas said as he arrived for the meeting.  

Belgium’s premier Charles Michel said it was time  to “defend the values of the free world” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said  Nato was central  to the West’s security. 

“I am happy that all  Nato member states will underline that  Nato is the central pillar of our common security, that we feel united in solidarity for our common security,” Merkel said.  

Trump ripped into allies during his campaign for not spending enough on defence and raised the possibility of only defending countries deemed  to be paying their fair share of the European security umbrella underpinned by Washington. 

“We expect him to recommit to Nato’s founding rule that an attack against one ally is an attack against all,” said a senior European diplomat at Nato. “Words matter and there is a huge expectation on that.” 

Trump is expected at Nato’s new, billion-dollar headquarters where he will unveil a memorial  to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.  There  Trump, in his only scheduled public remarks before a dinner with Nato leaders, is expected to pledge his full support  to the alliance he once said was not doing enough to stop terrorism.  
Nato hopes to impress Trump with military bands, allied jets flying overhead and a walk through the glass-and-steel headquarters, which replaces a leaking, 1960s prefab structure.  

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump would press  Nato leaders hard to spend more on defence and take on more of the burden of paying for the alliance, a message Trump has said repeatedly before and after entering the White House.  

Trump wants Nato to join the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Tillerson told reporters on Air Force One.  

Nato ambassadors agreed on Wednesday for the Western military alliance to join the US-led, 68-nation coalition against ISIS, paving the way for a formal endorsement by Nato leaders.