Trump Zings NATO, and EU Chief Zings Back

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison appears on

European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday lobbed a verbal grenade at President Trump ahead of a crucial week of diplomacy, warning the US leader not to mix up his friends and his rivals as he meets with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders, then Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Speaking about his upcoming meetings on his European tour, including his first summit with the Russian president on July 16 in Helsinki, Trump told reporters "frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all".

The unpredictable Trump's affinity for the leaders of NATO's 28 other members carries the potential to further blur the lines between who is a friend and who is a foe.

He says, "I think Putin may be the easiest of them all". "As far as I'm concerned, a competitor, a competitor", he said.

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As he left the White House to travel to Europe on Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump had more harsh words for the multi-country military alliance that was has been a punching bag throughout his campaign and into his presidency.

However, European officials say while USA defense spending makes up 70 percent of combined allied governments' military budgets, just 15 percent of US expenditure is spent in Europe on NATO-related defense.

Mr Tusk also said that the U.S. did not and would not have a better ally than the EU, reminding the president that it was European troops who had fought and died in Afghanistan after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

Most of the countries do not spend the recommended two percent of GDP on defence, something Trump has repeatedly complained about.

USA allies who want to isolate Putin, such as Britain, or who are concerned about Trump's attitude towards Russian Federation are likely to be irritated by such a summit.

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Four European members - Germany, France, Britain and Italy - combined pay 43.8 percent of the total.

During his first meeting at the group's headquarters in Brussels a year ago, Trump suggested that members who haven't been paying their fair share should be required to pay back dues.

He concluded with a reminder that European troops had fought and lost their lives alongside Americans in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. "We spend on defense much more than Russian Federation and as much as China", Tusk wrote.

Trump has, meanwhile, delivered on US commitments to Europe.

"NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations ..."

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But it adds that they will also "submit credible national plans on its implementation" in language that will perhaps please the U.S. president. And, dear Europe, spend more on your defence, because everyone respects an ally that is well-prepared and equipped.

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