Before meeting Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Monday, Donald Trump and his close advisors fire more shots in their campaign to break up the European Union.
Trump spent the weekend golfing in Scotland after his sabotage of the NATO summit in Brussels and then a turbulent visit to the UK, which began with Trump undermining Prime Minister Theresa May and continued with his assault on Germany and the EU.
But as well as hitting the fairway on Sunday, Trump swung again at long-time US allies. Asked whom he considered his biggest foe, Trump said the EU because of “what they do to us on trade”.
He then thought of Russia — ” a foe in certain respects” — and China, which is “a foe economically, certainly a foe”.
Trump’s statement was only an annex to the campaign, which began with his assailing of Germany and other NATO members and continued with his backing of UK departure from the EU in a “hard Brexit”, deriding May as not being tough enough and promoting her rival Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.
Steve Bannon, the former White House Chief of Staff and still a central figure in the Trump camp, continued the assault over the weekend.
Bannon set up a London operations room for Trump’s visit to meet and coordinate with right-wing Europeans and “hard Brexit” UK politicians and media, On Sunday, he joined the radio program of another key figure in the campaign, Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party.
Bannon said, “You’re going to have to fight to take your country back, every day. Whether it’s Italy, France, England, or the United States. If we quit, they’re going to be in control.”
He continued in response to the comment, “That sounds like a call to arms”: “Absolutely. This is war.”
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph — a media outlet for “hard Brexit” activists — Bannon went beyond Trump’s endorsement of Johnson, who resigned as Foreign Minister last week in opposition to May’s plan which would keep a trading relationship with the EU over goods but not services.
The hard-right strategist said Johnson should launch a challenge to May’s leadrship:
“Now is the moment. If Boris Johnson looks at this… There comes an inflection point, the Chequers deal [May’s plan] was an inflection point, we will have to see what happens.”
The approach of Trump’s camp is in line with the objectives of Putin as he meets the US President today.
The Kremlin has long pursued an effort to unsettle NATO and to split the US from European allies, expanding operations amid the contest over Ukraine following the 2014 uprising that removed a pro-Russian President.
With no agenda for the meeting, which including a 90-minute encounter with no other officials, Putin is likely to encourage Trump in his animosity towards Europe over trade and the — false — assertion that NATO members owe money to the US.
Questioned about the summit yesterday, Trump appeared oblivious to the possibilities.
Despite Friday’s indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officials for intervention on behalf of Trump in the 2016 election, the President said he does not plan to press Putin over the matter.
Asked if he would seek the extradition of the indicted agents to the United States to face charges, Trump said, “I hadn’t thought of that.”
Instead, Trump continued his attempt to pass blame to the Obama Administration for not investigating the Russian intervention — and, presumably, possible collusion with the Trump campaign — quickly enough: “Certainly, I’ll be asking about it, but again, this was during the Obama Administration They were doing whatever it was during the Obama Administration.”
On Twitter on Sunday night, he rambled:
President Obama thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election, so when he was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn’t happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it. When I won it became a big deal and the Rigged Witch Hunt headed by [FBI agent Peter] Strzok!
The suggestion that he should take a firm line with Putin led to a stream of tweets culminating in the claim that it is journalists who are the real “enemy of the American people”:
“Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough – that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!
Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems.know how to do is resist and obstruct! This is why there is such hatred and dissension in our country – but at some point, it will heal!”