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12 Jul, 2018 11:10

Trump calls Putin ‘competitor,’ says he might become friend ‘some day’

Donald Trump has touched upon his much-anticipated meeting with Vladimir Putin, saying the Russian president is not an enemy but a competitor who may turn into a friend in due time.

“I hope we’ll get along well, I think we get along well,” US President Donald Trump told a news conference on Thursday on the sidelines of NATO summit in Brussels. “But, ultimately, he’s a competitor, he’s representing Russia and I’m representing the United States.”

The US president also said that he doesn’t believe that Putin’s policies are a threat to the US or Europe. “Hey, I don’t want him to be [a threat], and I guess, that’s why we have NATO, and that’s why we have the United States with the largest military budget ever - $700 billion approved next year.”

Getting along with Moscow “is a good thing,” he argued, also repelling a question on what NATO could do to counter Russian influence in the Balkans. “We never talk about future plans,” the president noted.

Trump and Putin are poised to meet in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16. The date was announced following intense negotiations between Washington and Moscow. The meeting with the Russian president will arguably be the most attention-grabbing leg of Trump’s European tour.

It follows accusations in the US, since Trump’s 2016 presidential election win, that he owes his victory to the Russian president and that there may have been collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Earlier, Trump suggested that his one-to-one with Putin might be the easiest encounter compared to the ones he had with EU and NATO allies. “I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all, who would think?” he said.

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