The US president listed the EU, China and Russia as economic "foes" in an interview. He also said he has a "big problem" with Germany over its contributions to NATO as well as its pipeline deal with Russia.
US President Donald Trump labeled the European Union as one America's foes during an interview aired Sunday, a day ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
When asked to name the biggest competitor to the US globally, Trump first named the EU — which is comprised of several of the closest and oldest US allies.
"Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade," Trump said on the CBS program "Face the Nation."
Trump also said Russia "is a foe in certain respects" and that China "is a foe economically." The US leader added that he doesn't necessarily view them negatively.
"That doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means they are competitive," he said.
Making real foes happy
European officials said the US president's statements were unhelpful.
"Calling your best friends foes only makes your real foes happy," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans tweeted on Sunday.
"Europeans and Americans are bound by history and their shared values. Europeans will never give up on America because America never gave up on us. That's what friends are for," he added.
European Council President Donald Tusk took to Twitter to respond to Trump: "America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news."
'I have a big problem with Germany'
Trump added that although he respects EU leaders, he described the 28-member bloc as "very difficult."
"I respect the leaders of those countries. But, in a trade sense, they've really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren't paying their bills," he said.
Echoing comments made ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels, Trump then turned his attention to Germany, criticizing their defense spending contributions as well as a deal to build a natural gas pipeline to Russia.
"I have a big problem with Germany because Germany made a pipeline deal with Russia," Trump told CBS, saying Berlin is going to be paying Russia "billions and billions of dollars a year."
"I also think it is very bad thing for Germany. What, are they waving a white flag?" he added.
Tense week in Europe
Shortly after the publication of the CBS interview, European Council President Donald Tusk wrote on Twitter that "America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news."
The comments follow a contentious NATO summit in Brussels, during which Trump urged members to spend more on defense and scolded Germany for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia.
He later gave an interview to British tabloid The Sun where he publically criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit negotiation strategy as she hosted him.
Trump is due to meet with Putin in Helsinki for a summit on Monday.
rs/aw (AFP, dpa)