Donald Trump trashed Nato, saying it was “as bad as Nafta”, the North American free trade agreement the US president openly despises, European officials have confirmed.
Trump’s inflammatory remarks – made in private at the G7 summit in Quebec earlier this month – were first reported by Axios and confirmed on Thursday by two European officials. They have added to jitters among US allies about what will happen at a Nato summit in Brussels starting on 11 July, followed by Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki five days later.
At the tense G7 meeting in Quebec, Trump berated his six fellow leaders of major industrialised democracies for taking advantage of the US, in trade relations and in defence spending. Of the looming Nato summit, he said: “It will be an interesting summit. Nato is as bad as Nafta. It’s much too costly for the US.”
Asked for comment, a national security council spokesperson did not deny Trump made the remarks but said: “The president is committed to the alliance, as he has stated repeatedly. The president has also been clear we expect our allies to shoulder their fair share of our common defense burden and to do more in areas that most affect them.
“There is no better way to signal Nato’s resolve than for each and every ally to allocate the resources necessary to share their burden of our collective defense,” the NSC spokesperson added.
Governments in London, Paris and Berlin, as well as Ottawa, fear that Trump could lambast his Nato partners and then flatter Putin in Helsinki, triggering a crisis in confidence in the transatlantic alliance.
Europeans were ready to be criticised for low defence spending, a favourite Trump theme, but following the disastrous Quebec summit they are afraid it could be worse, with the US president calling Nato’s purpose into question.
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