Trump Lashes Out at Europe, Proposes Nuclear Deal with Russia

The president-elect calls NATO obsolete, says the EU is falling apart, but offers Russia relief from sanctions.

Businessman Donald Trump gestures while he makes a speech in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19, 2016
Businessman Donald Trump gestures while he makes a speech in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

American president-elect Donald Trump has said the United Kingdom made a “smart” decision leaving the EU and suggested he could trade sanctions relief for a deal with Russia on reducing nuclear weapons.

Both comments mark complete reversals from current American policy.

The United States have for decades encouraged European integration in order to avoid being called on a third time to save the continent from itself.

The sanctions against Russia are only meant to be lifted when Moscow withdraws its support from an insurrection in southeastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels battle the forces of the pro-Western government in Kiev.

Pro-Putin, anti-Merkel

Trump has criticized the European Union in the past and wasted no opportunity since he won the election in November to praise Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin.

Supporters who were hoping the Republican might come around to a more conventional foreign policy were once again disappointed on Sunday when he told The Times of London and Germany’s tabloid Bild that the EU is likely to collapse and NATO is “obsolete”.

Trump disparagingly described the EU as a “vehicle for Germany” and ranked its chancellor, Angela Merkel, alongside Putin as a potentially problematic ally.

Trump, an American nationalist, criticized Merkel for allowing more than one million “illegals” to seek asylum in Germany in 2015.

Free riders

In the interview, he reiterated his disdain for European allies who are not “paying what they’re supposed to,” presumably referring to NATO’s 2-percent spending norm for defense, which is not actually a treaty obligation.

The complaint is not without merit. Barack Obama, the man Trump is due to succeed this week, has also chastised “free riders”. But it’s also a little unfair when the United States for half a century discouraged European militarism.

Trump nevertheless maintained that the Atlantic alliance is “very important” to him, although he didn’t say why.