NATO, Russia and trade top the agenda for
Trump talks with Britain's May
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[January 27, 2017]
By Steve Holland and Elizabeth Piper
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President
Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, who share an
unusual bond as the products of anti-establishment uprisings, will sit
down on Friday for what could be a difficult search for unity on NATO,
Russia and trade.
The meeting will mark Trump’s first with a foreign leader since taking
power a week ago, and it could go a long way toward determining how
crucial Trump considers the traditional “special relationship” between
the two countries.
Trump rode an anti-Washington wave to win on Nov. 8, and May gained
power in July after the "Brexit" vote that has put her country on a path
to separate from the European Union. The meeting will conclude with a
joint White House news conference.
Trump has declared NATO obsolete and expressed a desire for warmer ties
with Russia. May considers the trans-Atlantic alliance crucial and is
skeptical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
They both want to begin work on a bilateral trade agreement, which for
May would provide proof of stability amid the Brexit breakup and for
Trump would support his belief that he can negotiate one-on-one trade
"They both need this to be a success," said Heather Conley, a European
expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
Trump, she said, "needs to demonstrate that he has a command of issues"
while May "needs to hear strong messages of support for her vision of a
Britain that works for everyone, a global Britain."
May, in a speech to Republican lawmakers gathered in Philadelphia on
Thursday, suggested she saw the need for some reforms in NATO and for
more countries to pay more to the alliance to help fund it, which has
been Trump's main complaint about NATO.
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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledges applause before
speaking during the 2017 "Congress of Tomorrow" Joint Republican
Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. January 26,
2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela
"America’s leadership role in NATO – supported by Britain – must be
the central element around which the alliance is built," May said.
But she said that EU nations "must step up" to ensure NATO remains
the cornerstone of the West's defense.
Trump and May also seem somewhat at odds over how to deal with
Russia. In her speech, May said Western leaders should "engage but
beware" of Putin and should not accept Putin's claim that Eastern
Europe is now in his sphere of influence.Trump, on the other hand,
wants a strong U.S. relationship with Russia to fight Islamic State
"I don't know Putin, but if we can get along with Russia, that's a
great thing," Trump told Fox News' Sean Hannity" on Thursday. "It's
good for Russia, it's good for us."
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Leslie
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