In an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, was asked a simple question.
“Who is your biggest competitor?” CBS’ Jeff Glor asked Trump at his Scotland golf resort. “Your biggest foe globally right now?”
When asked a question like that, the average world leader would start at the top, with the most important foe given top priority. Trump’s answer shocked the world.
“Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade,” he said. “Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe. Russia is foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive.”
When asked to identify his "biggest foe globally right now," President Trump told @jeffglor the European Union is a “foe” of the U.S. The president also said Russia is a “foe in certain respects” and China is a "foe economically.” https://t.co/Npe9S4uLuh pic.twitter.com/oHDpY4HrK2
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 15, 2018
The U.S. president chose to name the EU as a foe first, using “what they do to us on trade” as the reason. He acknowledged that “you wouldn’t think” of them as foes, but to Trump, they are. This answer, ahead of Monday’s one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, is stunning for western allies to hear.
He listed Russia next as a foe “in certain respects” though he refrained from naming even one.
Two of the major respects in which Russia has been a geopolitical adversary is through annexing Crimea from Ukraine and actively meddling in the 2016 presidential election to defeat Trump’s political opponents. In both cases, Trump has blamed the Obama administration rather than Russia itself. He also noted that China is a foe “economically.”
Trump started his answer in a fairly anodyne manner, saying that the United States has a lot of foes, although this would not necessarily be the way many previous administrations would have characterized the state of play.
To Trump, however, it appears to be more difficult to find a country that is not a foe of the United States. There was a large debate in 2012 over whether Russia was a foe, however this was years before it actively meddled in American elections to the extent that 12 intelligence officers got indicted on Friday in advance of Trump’s meeting with Putin.
BREAKING: President Trump in new @CBSNews interview calls the European Union a “foe” of the United States. The president also said Russia is a “foe in certain respects” and China “is a foe economically.”
Coming up on @FaceTheNation: pic.twitter.com/s4mRpV8ok2
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) July 15, 2018
To Trump, EU’s tariffs (some of which target areas of political importance to Republicans) are a more potent threat than Russia annexing a territory of its neighbor, waging a war with the rest of Ukraine, actively meddling in American democratic processes, jailing journalists, being implicated in the assassinations of critics on foreign soil, and human right violations.
As the president began to steer the conversation back to what he considers his administration’s successes, Glor responded, “a lot of people might be surprised to hear you list the EU as a foe before Russia and China.” The president replied: “Look, EU is very difficult,” but then insisted that he loves the countries of the European Union because his parents “were born in EU sectors.”
“I respect the leaders of those countries,” he continued. “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.” Trump then attacked Germany for its pipeline deal with Russia.
America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) July 15, 2018
Minutes after Trump’s comments rocketed across the globe, EU President Donald Tusk tweeted his response, writing that anyone asserting that America and the European Union are enemies “is spreading fake news.”