President Donald Trump named the European Union as a “foe” of the U.S. in an interview, days after a contentious meeting with NATO allies, but a top European official said the suggestion was “fake news.”
The comment, using a common synonym for enemy or opponent to describe nations that for generations have been considered among the U.S.’s closest and most important allies, continued Trump’s striking shift in posture toward European democracies.
Over the past few days, Trump badgered NATO allies over their military spending levels. He attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel over a pipeline deal with Russia. And he chastised British Prime Minister Theresa May for not pursuing a “hard” enough break with the E.U. in Brexit talks and for dismissing his advice.
“I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade,” Trump responded. “Now you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe.”
Trump also listed Russia as a “foe in certain respects” and China as “a foe economically.”
European Council President Donald Tusk said in a Twitter message that “America and the EU are best friends.” Turning one of Trump’s derisive comments back at the president, Tusk said that “whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.”
Trump meets with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, three days after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for hacking Democratic party officials and organizations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Pressed on describing the E.U. as a U.S. foe, Trump said “I love those countries” but “in a trade sense, they’ve really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren’t paying their bills.”
The comment continued the president’s frequent twinning of trade with issues such as defense spending, a linkage that Germany’s defense minister Ursula von der Leyen this month termed “immature” in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
Trump also returned to his criticism of Germany’s Nord Steam 2 pipeline deal in his response, calling it “a big problem” because the project will be “paying Russia billions and billions of dollars a year for energy.”