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Russia Welcomes Trump Calling NATO 'Obsolete'

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (file photo)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (file photo)

Moscow has welcomed U.S. President-elect Donald Trump calling NATO "obsolete," as key NATO ally Germany reacted with concern to his remarks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on January 16 that "NATO is indeed a vestige [of the past] and we agree with that."

Peskov also said that "considering that [NATO] is focused on confrontation and its entire structure is devoted to the ideals of confrontation, then, of course, this can hardly be called a modern structure meeting the ideas of stability, sustainable development, and security."

NATO has repeatedly rejected Russian claims that it wants confrontation, saying that moves to bolster its strength in Eastern Europe are a response to Russian actions that have rattled members in the area, including Moscow's seizure of Crimea and its support for separatists in a war in eastern Ukraine.

Germany, one of the United States' closest NATO partners, expressed concern over Trump's remarks.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that "this is in contradiction" with what Trump's nominee to lead the Pentagon, James Mattis, said during his Senate confirmation hearing last week. Mattis on January 12 called NATO "the most successful military alliance probably in modern history, maybe ever" and said Russia posed a threat to it.

NATO reacted on January 16 to Trump's statement by saying it has full confidence in the U.S. security commitment to Europe. NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg was looking forward to working with Trump and his team.

Trump said in a wide-ranging interview with the British daily The Times and the German daily Bild published on January 15 that NATO was "obsolete" for not doing more to fight terrorism but added that the alliance was still "very important to me."

"I said a long time ago that NATO had problems," Trump told the newspapers. "It's obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago. Secondly, a lot of [NATO member] countries aren't paying what they should."

Trump called that "unfair" to the United States but added that the United States had to protect the other countries in the 28-member alliance.

Sanctions Deal?

The U.S. president-elect's comments about NATO came as Trump also suggested that he may offer to end some economic sanctions against Russia in return for a deal to reduce nuclear arms.

He said he wanted the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia to be "reduced very substantially." The United States currently has 1,367 deployed nuclear warheads and Russia 1,796, according to the latest count mandated by the 2010 New START treaty.

The Kremlin said on January 16 that it was too early to comment on Trump's statement. However, a senior Russian lawmaker said Moscow would reject any link between the lifting of U.S. sanctions and arms reductions.

State-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted the upper house of parliament's International Relations Committee head, Konstantin Kosachyov, as saying that getting the sanctions annulled was not a goal in itself and not worth making security concessions for.

The United States and other Western powers imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Brexit 'A Great Thing'

Turning to other subjects, Trump used his January 15 remarks to praise Britain for voting to leave the European Union.

He said that "Brexit is going to end up being a great thing" and that he was eager to get a trade deal done with the United Kingdom.

The remark was welcomed on January 16 by British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, who called it "good news" that the United States wants "a good free-trade deal with us."

British Prime Minister Theresa May also welcomed Trump's commitment to working on a trade deal with Britain, her spokesperson said.

Britain's impending exit from the EU means that it cannot be part of the free-trade deal Washington is currently negotiating with Brussels and the two countries will have to strike their own bilateral accord.

Some EU officials on January 16 rejected Trump's description of Brexit as a "great thing" and his statement that other EU members may follow Britain's example.

European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the cost of Brexit would be "considerable" and that it would deter other countries from following suit.

"Brexit is not a great thing," Moscovici said and warned Trump that comments advocating a break-up of the European Union would not get the transatlantic relationship off to the best start.

'Twitter Diplomacy'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also reacted negatively to Trump's prediction that other countries may leave the EU after Britain.

"I think we Europeans have our fate in our own hands," she said on January 16.

Merkel also brushed off criticism from Trump over her migrants policy. Trump said in the newspaper interviews that she was a "fantastic leader" but that Germany had "got a clear impression" of the consequences of her policy from the December 19 terrorist attack in Berlin, when 12 people were mowed down by a hijacked truck at a Christmas market.

"I am personally waiting for the inauguration of the U.S. president," Merkel said regarding Trump's statement. "Then of course we will work with him on all levels."

With Trump due to be inaugurated as U.S. president on January 20, some other observers also said the best course is to see what he does once he takes office rather than react to his statements now.

"I think the most important thing is that we play it cool at the moment and wait until they all actually start working," Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said. "I think we have to wait and move away from Twitter diplomacy to real politics and that is what have to relate to."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and TASS.
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