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NATO: Trump's stubborn self-belief may actualise Putin's dream to destroy Nato - by Con Coughlin

It is no understatement to say that next week’s visit by US President Donald Trump to Europe could come to define America’s relationship with its erstwhile allies in in the continent for decades to come. The initial priority of Mr Trump’s visit was to attend the annual summit of Nato leaders which is this year being held in Brussels, where the main item on the president’s agenda will be to take a number of European member states to task for not spending enough on defence. In addition Mr Trump will also be making his long-delayed trip to Britain, where he will meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May, as well as having afternoon tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle.

But a visit that was initially regarded as being little more than a routine Trumpian jaunt has suddenly become the source of profound concern for policymakers in Europe after the White House confirmed that Mr Trump will also meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his European tour. And, to judge by Mr Trump’s pre-visit body language, the president appears a lot more enthusiastic about meeting with the autocratic Russian leader than he is about socialising with America’s long-standing European allies.

Relations between Mr Trump and the major European powers have already become strained following the president’s decision to start a trade war with the European Union over what he regards as the organisation’s anti-American protectionist trade policies. Mr Trump’s desire to pursue his doctrine of “America First” has put him at loggerheads with many of Washington’s traditional allies in the West.

This was made abundantly clear with the extraordinary scenes at last month’s G7 summit in Quebec, where the president, having complained that he regarded the meeting as an unwelcome distraction from other, more pressing business, then refused to put his name to the communique following a row over what he contended were unfair trade practices towards the US.

Consequently European leaders are looking forward to next week’s Nato summit with a degree of trepidation, especially as it seems the main issue Mr Trump wants to concentrate on is Washington’s long-standing resentment at the failure of so many European members states to meet the Nato guideline to spend a minimum of two per cent of their annual GDP on defence expenditure.

Read more: Trump's stubborn self-belief may actualise Putin's dream to destroy Nato - The National

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