President-elect Donald Trump has granted his first interview to the European media since his election and used the opportunity to call the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) “obsolete,” float the idea of reduced sanctions against Russia, call Brexit “a great thing,” and suggest that more European countries will leave the EU.
Trump gave an hourlong interview to the Times of London and Germany’s Bild, jointly. The Times chose to send Michael Gove, a Conservative MP who writes a weekly column for the newspaper, to conduct the interview.
Here’s what Trump said:
On Brexit and the U.K.
Trump, who predicted that the U.K. would vote to leave the EU, said it was a “smart” move as the institution was too biased toward one country. “You look at the European Union, and it’s Germany — basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the U.K. was so smart in getting out.”
Trump added that, as president, he will move quickly to secure a trade deal with the U.K., revealing that the British prime minister sent him a letter just before Christmas seeking a meeting.
In response to Trump’s comments Monday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “It’s very good news that the United States of America wants to deal a good free trade deal with us and wants to do it very fast.”
The problem is that a quick trade deal may simply not be possible until after Brexit, a process that could take two years.
A longtime critic of NATO, Trump repeated his views on the international military alliance: “I took such heat when I said NATO was obsolete. It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror.” Trump added that some NATO members were not paying what they should be, which is “very unfair to the United States.”
Russia on Monday came out in support of Trump’s stance on NATO:
However, Trump concluded by saying: “That being said, NATO is very important to me.”
On Germany and Angela Merkel
When asked about Germany and its leader, Angela Merkel, Trump didn’t hold back in his criticism of her decision to allow a large number of migrants into the country: “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.”
People quickly pointed out that Trump’s use of the term “illegals” was not correct:
Trump warned that Germany would find out the real impact of that decision and said the country got “a big dose of it” recently – a reference to the Berlin Christmas market attack that was carried out by a Tunisian-born asylum seeker.
When asked if he would vote for Merkel in this year’s election, Trump said, “I don’t know her, I’ve never met her,” adding that he doesn’t know who her opponents are.
Trump’s relationship with Russia has been one of the most controversial aspects of his election so far, and his comments Monday will simply add fuel to the fire. Despite finally accepting that Russia likely tried to influence the presidential election, Trump said, “We should be ready to trust Putin.”
The president-elect suggested he was willing to reduce sanctions against Moscow if Russia’s nuclear arsenal was “reduced very substantially.”
However, Trump did offer some outright criticism of Russia during the interview, calling the country’s intervention in Syria “a very bad thing” that led to a “terrible humanitarian situation.”
Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States this week and will gain control of official social media channels, including the @POTUS Twitter account and its 13.5 million followers.
But Trump that he will be keeping his own @realDonaldTrump account active, allowing him to reach his 20 million followers directly. The reason? The dishonest media, of course. “I thought I’d do less [tweeting], but I’m covered so dishonestly by the press — so dishonestly — that I can put out Twitter — and it’s not 140, it’s now 280 — I can go bing bing bing . . . and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out — this morning on television, Fox — ‘Donald Trump, we have breaking news’.”
On the EU
Trump called the EU “a vehicle for Germany” and said that he expects more countries to follow the U.K.’s lead. “I think people want, people want their own identity, so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave.”
Trump also said that citizens from Europe could face a tougher time getting into the U.S., promising “extreme vetting” for anyone trying to enter, including people from Europe. “We’re looking at parts of the world and parts of Europe, where we have problems where they come in and they’re gonna be causing problems. I don’t wanna have those problems.”
As he discussed higher custom duties, Trump took the opportunity to criticize China again, saying: “Most of it is China ’cause China is a tremendous problem.” This is unlikely to go down well with authorities, already angered by Trump’s previous refusal to commit to the “One China” policy.