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Trump European trip: Trade wars, Brexit chaos — and a Russia quandary


The rest of the world has been wondering whether President Donald Trump is truly intent on continuing to rattle relationships with long-standing allies while drawing America closer to Russia. This week, they’ll get perhaps the best indication yet of his intentions.

Trump arrived here today for the first leg of a weeklong trip in which he plans to ramp up pressure on other North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries to take more responsibility for their collective defense, sit down with both Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Theresa May in England amid “Brexit”-fueled chaos in May’s government, and meet privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

 He does so in an environment defined by his foreign policy choices to date: the rising self-created tension between the U.S. and its European partners over tit-for-tat tariffs, his increasingly laissez-faire approach toward Russia’s projection of physical and cyber power, and his explicit and implicit threats to diminish America’s role in an alliance built to protect the rest of Europe from Moscow if partner nations don’t pony up more cash.

This trip gives Trump the chance to tilt back toward most of Europe, or inch closer to Russia.

Shortly before departing Washington, Trump hinted that he intends to stick his fingers in the eyes of NATO, tweeting “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!”

Asked later whether Putin is a friend or foe, he replied, “I really can’t say right now. As far as I’m concerned, a competitor.”

Still, Trump administration officials insist that the president’s aims are to strengthen NATO by extracting more concessions from American allies, and to deliver a stern message to Putin about Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections — even as his own rhetoric and actions suggest the former claim is in question, and he doesn’t believe the latter is true. Read more

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Trump European trip: Trade wars, Brexit chaos — and a Russia quandary