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Tough itinerary: Trump picks Putin meeting as ‘easiest’ among NATO, UK

When Donald Trump walks into a NATO summit Wednesday, July 11, 2018, international politics are bound to become intensely personal — again. | AP file photo

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says NATO benefits Europe more than the United States, as he prepares to meet with treaty allies in Brussels.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday from the White House before departing Washington for Europe, Trump says of the 69-year-old trans-Atlantic mutual defense pact, “Frankly it helps them a lot more than it helps us.”

Responding to criticism from Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, who complained that Trump is “criticizing Europe almost daily,” Trump says the United States is “being taken advantage of” by the European Union.

Trump says he is referring to the trade imbalance with Europe and the American contribution to NATO.

The president added he “can’t say right now” if Russian President Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe.

Trump spoke to reporters Tuesday before departing the White House for a trip that will take him to a NATO summit meeting, bilateral meetings in the United Kingdom and a sit-down with Putin in Helsinki next week.

He says, “I think Putin may be the easiest of them all.” He called Putin a “competitor.”

Trump predicts tough negotiations with NATO over defense spending.

He adds: “I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing.”