Trump: NATO obsolete, Merkel wrong, Brexit OK
BERLINNATO is “obsolete,” Germany’s Angela Merkel made a “catastrophic mistake” on refugees, Brexit will be “great” and the United States could cut a deal with Russia: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump unleashed a volley of broadsides on Jan. 15 in interviews with European media.
Five days before his inauguration as the 45th president of the U.S., the billionaire populist let loose a torrent of controversial comments about European allies in interviews with British newspaper The Times and Germany’s Bild.
He extended a hand to Russia, which has been hit by a string of sanctions under his predecessor Barack Obama over Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine, the Syrian war and for alleged cyber-attacks to influence the U.S. election.
“Let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” Trump said in remarks carried by The Times.
The U.S. president-elect suggested a deal in which nuclear arsenals would be reduced and sanctions against Moscow would be eased, but gave no details.
“Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit,” said the president-elect, who has previously expressed admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Washington’s European allies imposed sanctions against Russia over Ukraine in 2014. Those measures were renewed on Dec. 19, 2016.
In comments set to cause further consternation among Eastern European NATO countries nervous about Moscow following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and involvement in Ukraine, Trump said NATO was “obsolete.”
“I said a long time ago that NATO had problems,” Trump told The Times of London and Bild, Germany’s biggest-selling daily.
“Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago,” he said. “Number two, the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.”
NATO ‘confident’ of US commitment to Europe
NATO on Jan. 16 reiterated its full confidence in the U.S. security commitment to Europe.
In a statement, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg was looking forward to working with Trump and his team.
“He is absolutely confident that the incoming U.S. administration will remain committed to NATO,” Lungescu said, according to AFP.
Spending has been a common source of friction within the 28-nation alliance over recent years.
The core military contributor to the alliance is the U.S., which accounts for about 70 percent of spending.
In other remarks, Trump said Brexit “is going to end up as a great thing” and said he backed a trade deal with post-EU Britain, which would be “good for both sides.”
“We’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly,” said Trump, confirming he would meet British Prime Minister Theresa May soon after his inauguration on Jan. 20.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said on Jan. 16 that Trump’s offer of a quick trade deal with Britain as it leaves the European Union was positive news.
“I think it’s very good news that the United States of America wants to do a good free trade deal with us and wants to do it very fast,” Johnson said ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. “It’s great to hear that from President-elect Donald Trump. Clearly it will have to be a deal that’s very much in the interest of both sides but I have no doubt that it will be.”
“Other countries will leave” the European Union in the future, Trump prophesied, largely due to the pressure the bloc was put under following a significant uptick in migrants and refugees arriving.
Trump also criticized Merkel for letting Germany admit undocumented migrants enter the country, insinuating that this posed a security risk.
“I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals; you know, taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from,” Trump said, adding he had “great respect” for the chancellor.
Merkel took flak at home after her open-door policy aimed at desperate Syrian refugees brought 890,000 asylum seekers to Europe’s biggest economy in 2015, contributing to the rise of an anti-migrant movement.
But in 2016, that figure dropped back sharply, to 280,000 arrivals the government said last week.
‘One China principle’ not negotiable, China tells Trump
Meanwhile, responding to Trump’s remarks published in The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 13, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Jan. 16 that the country’s “one-China principle” regarding Taiwan was not negotiable and any attempt to reconsider the issue would be self-defeating, The Associated Press reported.
Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that anyone attempting to use Taiwan’s status in a negotiation would be “smashing their feet by lifting a rock.”
“Not everything in the world can be bargained or traded off,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.
“Whoever attempts to harm the one-China principle out of any motive or uses the principle as a bargaining chip will definitely be facing broad and strong opposition from the Chinese government and people, as well as the international community,” Hua said.
Trump told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Jan. 13 that “everything is under negotiation, including ‘one China.’”
It was the latest sign that Trump could shake up the U.S.-China relationship, particularly regarding Taiwan, which China considers a core national interest.