Europe & NATO hit back at Trump


BRUSSELS: EU heavyweights Germany and France led a sharp European response to US President-elect Donald Trump Tuesday after he branded NATO “obsolete” and said more countries would leave the EU after Britain.
In a hard-hitting interview with two European newspapers, Trump unleashed a volley of verbal attacks on Europe and criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “catastrophic” decision to open Germany’s borders to Syrian refugees.
With fears growing in Europe over Trump’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance and signs he will pivot towards Russia, Merkel warned that the continent now had to take responsibility for itself.
“We Europeans have our fate in our own hands,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin when asked about Trump’s criticisms, adding that she will work towards getting the EU to strengthen the economy and fight terrorism.
French President Francois Hollande’s response to Trump’s intervention was more blunt, insisting that the European Union “has no need for outside advice” on its affairs.
Trump’s latest remarks have in particular caused further consternation among eastern European NATO countries nervous about Moscow, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and involvement in Ukraine.
“I said a long time ago that NATO had problems,” Trump told The Times of London and Bild, Germany’s biggest-selling daily, on Friday.
“Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago,” he said, referring to its Cold War, post-World War II origins. “Number two, the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.”
On the campaign trail, Trump said he would think twice about helping NATO allies if the United States was not “reasonably reimbursed” for the costs of defending them — a common source of friction in the US-led 28-nation alliance.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Europe was stunned by Trump’s remarks on NATO, just five days ahead of the billionaire businessman’s inauguration as president.
“The interview statements of the American president-elect… caused, indeed here in Brussels, astonishment and agitation,” Steinmeier said as he went from a meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg to talks with EU counterparts.
Stoltenberg was “absolutely confident” in Trump’s commitment to NATO, the alliance chief’s spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said.
Criticism of Trump’s comments also came from Washington.