Top European officials slammed U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Monday after he branded the NATO alliance “obsolete” and lashed out at a key nuclear deal with Iran.
In an interview with two major European newspapers, Trump unleashed a volley of verbal attacks on Europe, dubbing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy “catastrophic” and hailing Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
But the EU’s foreign policy supremo led the European response, insisting the bloc would stand by the nuclear accord, described by Trump as “one of the dumbest deals I have ever seen”.
Federica Mogherini said the deal was “proof that diplomacy works and delivers”.
“The European Union will continue to work for the respect and implementation of this extremely important deal, most of all for our security,” she said.
Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson also defended the deal, saying it had “great merit” and “we want to keep it going”.
Germany’s top diplomat Frank-Walter Steinmeier acknowledged NATO “concern” over Trump’s remarks about the U.S.-led alliance.
“This is in contradiction with what the American defense minister said in his hearing in Washington only some days ago and we have to see what will be the consequences for American policy,” Steinmeier told reporters.
In his comments to the newspapers Trump slammed NATO as “obsolete”.
On the campaign trail, Trump said he would think twice about helping NATO allies if the United States were not “reasonably reimbursed” for the costs of defending them.
Spending has been a common source of friction within the 28-nation alliance over recent years.
The core military contributor to the alliance is the United States, which accounts for about 70 percent of spending.
In 2014, stung into action by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, NATO leaders agreed to reverse years of cuts and spend the equivalent of two percent of economic output on defense.
“The countries aren’t paying their fair share so we’re supposed to protect countries,” Trump said in Sunday’s interview.
“There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much.”
Trump also extended a hand to Russia. “Let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” Trump said in remarks carried by The Times.
The U.S. president-elect suggested a deal in which nuclear arsenals would be reduced and sanctions against Moscow would be eased, but gave no details.
“Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit,” said Trump.
The Kremlin said on Monday it was too early to comment on Trump’s proposal.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia would wait until Trump took office before commenting on any proposed deals.
There were currently no talks on possible nuclear arms cuts with the United States and Russia did not intend to raise the sanctions issue itself in negotiations with foreign countries, said Peskov.
In other remarks, Trump said Brexit “is going to end up as a great thing” and said he backed a trade deal with post-EU Britain, which would be “good for both sides”.
“Other countries will leave” the European Union in future, Trump predicted.
Trump also criticized Merkel for letting Germany admit undocumented migrants into the country, insinuating that this posed a security risk.
“I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals,” Trump said.