Home WORLD NEWS Trump’s European trip: Trade wars, Brexit chaos — and a Russia quandary

Trump’s European trip: Trade wars, Brexit chaos — and a Russia quandary

19
SHARE

While he has since rescinded his oft-articulated analysis that the alliance is “obsolete,” Trump said in Montana last week that “NATO is killing us.”

But Trump’s last-minute decision to pull out of a joint statement with other G-7 countries after a summit in Canada last month has heightened worries that he will pull a similar move at the end of NATO’s meeting.

The ‘Special Relationship’

On Thursday, Trump will make the 200-mile hop from Brussels to London, where he’ll show up in the midst of a crisis over May’s handling of Britain’s exit — or “Brexit” — from the European Union.

During his short stay, he is expected to be met, separately, by May and Queen Elizabeth — as well as a gigantic inflatable “Trump Baby” balloon with a blond coif, small hands and a white diaper that has become the symbol of the significant protests expected to greet him in the United Kingdom.

Image: People inflate a helium-filled Donald Trump blimp
A helium-filled Donald Trump blimp which will fly over London during his visit is inflated.Simon Dawson / Reuters

The two big questions on the U.S. side are whether Trump will make progress toward a bilateral trade deal with the U.K., and whether he will involve himself in the debate over May’s proposal for a softer detachment from continental Europe than many of her conservative allies would like.

Boris Johnson, her foreign minister and the face of the Brexit movement, resigned from May’s Cabinet Monday following the weekend departure of David Davis, the official responsible for the Brexit process, and there is a real chance the conservative caucus could vote to oust her soon.

There’s a “big push on” to sack May, said a U.S. source with ties to British conservatives. “Trump visit couldn’t come at a worse time for May.”

So the big question for May is whether she will survive politically, with key figures in her own party abandoning her government in protest of a Brexit plan that would keep the U.K. in line with the parts of the European Union’s “common rulebook” that deal with trade in goods.

“The Tory Brexit plan that took two years to develop has unraveled in two days,” said Matthew Doyle, who served as political adviser to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. If May backs away from the so-called Chequers plan quickly, the damage will be “serious but not automatically fatal,” Doyle said.

Image: Donald Trump and Theresa May
President Donald Trump greets British Prime Minister Theresa May in Washington on Jan. 27, 2017. May was the first foreign head of state to meet with President Trump at the White House.Shawn Thew / EPA

Still, it would be understandable if May is a little distracted Thursday evening, when she is scheduled to host a black-tie dinner for Trump at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, and during their business meetings Friday.

Trump said Tuesday that May’s future is “up to the people” — though it may really be determined by her own fellow party members.

While Trump applauded British voters for “taking their country back” when they opted for “Brexit” in 2016, he isn’t advocating either a hard or soft detachment from the continental economic alliance, U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Robert “Woody” Johnson said. And yet it would hardly be surprising if Trump weighed in again on the future of the nationalist plebiscite that many international political observers believe presaged his 2016 victory, particularly given his starchy relationship with May.

The British are eager to get Trump to take a tougher line with Putin, particularly with regard to the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil in March. Last week, two British citizens became ill from exposure to the same nerve agent, Novichok, at a nearby location — with one of them dying over the weekend.

“The eyes of the world are currently on Russia,” British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said. “It is now time that the Russian state comes forward and explain what has gone on.”

Russia has denied involvement in the poisonings, and argued that Britain is preventing a joint probe.

It remains to be seen whether Trump, who has split with administration officials and members of Congress over their conclusions that Russia meddled in his 2016 election, will press Britain’s case with Putin. And there are concerns that he isn’t ready to represent the interests of America and its allies in Helsinki.

Following a meeting with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle Friday — where etiquette reigns supreme — Trump plans to spend the weekend in Scotland.

The Finnish Line

After returning from an all-Republican congressional trip to Russia last week, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said lawmakers took a hard line with Kremlin officials on a variety of subjects that could come up when Trump sits down with Putin on Monday.

“During our meetings, we stated in no uncertain terms that Russia must stop its meddling in our elections and that its destabilizing actions in the region are not without consequence,” Thune said. “The delegation also stressed that Russia respect the sovereignty of Ukraine and help bring about a peaceful resolution in Syria. These discussions were direct and to-the-point. It’s now up to the Russian government to demonstrate that it will be a responsible actor on the world stage.”

But Trump’s relations with Russia have been complicated by his domestic politics. He has often questioned whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election as part of his defense against a special counsel investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Moscow and allegations that he has obstructed justice.

Article Source : https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-s-european-trip-trade-wars-brexit-chaos-russia-quandary-n889606?cid=public-rss_20180711