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What The Past Week Means For U.S.-E.U. Relations


The past week has been quite a week for U.S.-European relations. First President Trump visited Brussels and met with other members of NATO. He blasted the alliance and then recommitted his support for it. He also criticized Germany, claiming it was captive to Russia because it's getting much of its energy from Russia. Trump then went on to London, where he criticized Prime Minister Theresa May's handling of Brexit. And then that brings us to yesterday's summit in Helsinki and the press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin that sent shock waves through Washington and earned praise in Moscow. Trump tweeted today that that summit went even better than the NATO one.

To help us understand where all of this leaves Europe's relationship with the U.S., we are joined by Elmar Brok. He's a member of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs. Welcome.

ELMAR BROK: Hello. Welcome.

CHANG: When you consider this whole arc of President Trump's tour through Europe this entire past week, what goes through your mind?

BROK: Look; first of all, I think that has never happened before - to call a friend a foe in a morning say and in lunchtime that and then afterwards the other way around. Again, we do not know what he really wants. The only problem is this - mistrust in the alliance. There is mistrust in the European Union, which was founded with the help of the United States, now to see it as a foe of the United States. To say that Germany relies on 70 percent on the energy of Russia - it's 8 or 9 percent just. Then I must say I'm confused at also what he did in London. I believe sometimes after the Helsinki meeting that perhaps President Trump is more captive to Putin than the Germans are.

CHANG: You think he's the captive of Russia now.

BROK: Yeah. I cannot understand that meeting. He did not mention really that Russia is violating international law by waging war day by day - people killed in Ukraine, what Russia does in Syria, shooting children, hospitals and so on. And to say that it's closer to me than NATO partners - I'm confused.

CHANG: You mentioned also his style, that he could be belligerent in the morning and then be friendly by the afternoon. In all fairness, haven't leaders in Europe and other politicians in Europe gotten used to the way Trump operates? Was it really that big of a shock to watch the way he conducted himself throughout this entire past week?

BROK: I think the pattern of the politician was not a shock. I was in a meeting yesterday with Chancellor Merkel. I think she's already used to that. But what has an impact on the public - whole nations become confused. The credibility of the support of the United States is diminishing.

CHANG: Can the U.S. be seen as reliable of an ally to the EU after what's happened this past week? Has that changed?

BROK: It has changed in our populations. It has changed in political quarters and to say there is not a hundred percent credibility of the support of United States anymore there. But I have experience in Washington - was that so many people in Washington, senators and congressmen, going very strongly - doesn't matter which party - for a good European-American relationship. And this has encouraged me that I should not judge the United States just by listening to President Trump.

CHANG: Elmar Brok is a member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. Thank you very much for joining us.

BROK: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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