The president is ratcheting up his criticism of US allies’ trade practices.
Some of America’s oldest friends are not actually its friends, according to President Donald Trump. In an interview with CBS News that aired on Sunday, he said he believes the European Union is a “foe” of the United States.
“Well, I think we have a lot of foes,” Trump said when asked by CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor about who he thinks America’s biggest foe is, globally, right now. “I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us is in trade. Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe. Russia is foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive.”
The interview took place in Scotland on Saturday, where Trump spent the weekend in between attending last week’s NATO summit in Brussels and meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki Monday. He clarified that his grievances with the EU — comprised of many of the United States’ oldest allies — are not across the board, but largely tied to trade.
“I respect the leaders of those countries,” he said. “But, in a trade sense, they’ve really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren’t paying their bills.”
.@POTUS on why EU is a foe: “Both my parents were born in EU sectors… And, you know, I love those countries. I respect the leaders of those countries, but in a trade sense, they’ve really taken advantage of us, and many of those countries are in NATO.” https://t.co/Npe9S4uLuh pic.twitter.com/zx8H68T2QQ
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 15, 2018
The timing of the remarks couldn’t be more indicative of the precarious state of relations between the US, Europe, and Russia. In Brussels, Trump insulted America’s longstanding allies, blasting them for not spending enough on defense. He skipped scheduled meetings with world leaders, told Germany it was “captive to Russia,” and questioned the value of NATO as a whole (before eventually declaring the summit a success).
It left the alliance shakier than ever, national security experts told Vox’s Alex Ward — right before Trump meets with Putin, the leader of one of the two countries named as America’s biggest competitors in Trump’s own National Security Strategy.
Trump’s had a long-running issue with Europe
Though the intensity of Trump’s criticism of the EU might have been surprising, the general sentiment behind them should not have been. Going beyond Trump’s general tendency to criticize allies and question accepted principles of US national security, we’ve been here, specifically, before.
Two weeks ago, Trump said in a Fox News interview that “the European Union is possibly as bad as China” when it comes to trade, lamenting the US’s $101 billion trade deficit in goods and services with the EU. (America ran up an approximate $336 billion gap with China in 2017).
The president has also repeatedly criticized allies for “unfair” trade practices and last month slapped Europe, Canada, and Mexico with steep tariffs on steel and aluminum. It’s caused deep schisms in the US’s relationships with its partners, but not irreconcilable ones, according to EU President Donald Tusk. Tusk hit back at Trump Sunday, tweeting that the US and the EU were still “best friends” — anything else is “fake news.”
America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) July 15, 2018