Donald Trump gave his first joint interview to two European publications as president-elect and, quite predictably, it was nothing short of a diplomatic disaster.
While a lot of what Trump stated to The Times of London and Bild, a German newspaper, reportedly alarmed European diplomats, the highlight was his comment about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (aka NATO).
“I took such heat when I said NATO was obsolete,” Trump said. “It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying, ‘Trump is right.’”
Trump has referred to NATO as "obsolete” several times during the course of his presidential campaign. And while he hasn’t exactly mentioned who “they” were — and how many — who said he was right to slam the 28-member bloc, NATO experts, for the record, disagree with him.
“After 9/11, NATO’s main vocation became fighting terrorism in Afghanistan,” said Alexander Vershbow, the former deputy secretary general of NATO, according to The New York Times. “It is now heavily engaged in training the militaries of many Middle Eastern countries to help them fight terrorism in their own backyard.”
In fact, Trump’s views on NATO put him at odds with his own defense secretary pick, James Mattis, who defended the European military alliance as essential to the U.S.
“If we did not have NATO today we would need to create it,” Mattis recently said, according to Politico, adding, the alliance “must harness renewed political will to confront and walk back aggressive Russian actions and other threats to the security of its members.”
Russia immediately welcomed Trump’s statement:
Russian government spokesman says Russia agrees with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that NATO is obsolete— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) January 16, 2017
However, it wasn’t just Trump’s comments about NATO that have angered European allies.
In the same interview, the president-elect slammed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her decision to help refugees fleeing war in Syria.
“I think she made one very catastrophic mistake, and that was taking all of these illegals, you know, taking all of the people from wherever they come from,” he said. “And nobody even knows where they come from.”
As if the aforementioned were not enough, Trump put Russian President Vladimir Putin and Merkel in the same league, suggesting he trusts them both equally.
“Well, I start off trusting both [Putin and Merkel] — but let’s see how long that lasts,” he said. “It may not last long at all.”
Obviously, there’s quite a lot of backlash:
Europe is our largest trade partner, largest investor in our economy and strongest ally-NATO. And Trump just declared it obsolete?— Nicholas Burns (@RNicholasBurns) January 16, 2017
Trump has just declared NATO -- the organization of our greatest allies -- to be obsolete. Then he went back to praising Putin. Seriously.— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) January 16, 2017
Well, of course the Kremlin agrees with Trump that NATO is obsolete. NATO is what's preventing Russian expansion into Europe.— Matt Wingett (@MattWingett) January 16, 2017
Trump's comments that he trusts Merkel & Putin both equally & that NATO is "obsolete" should alarm everyone in Europe. This is a big deal.— Mike Tibbetts (@Mike20Tibbetts) January 16, 2017
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Lucas Jackson