US President Donald Trump has defended his "America first" approach in relations with Europe. The POTUS said it was his job to make Europeans pay more for defence, which his critics at home say has undermined his popularity across the Atlantic.
"When they say I'm not popular in Europe, I shouldn't be popular in Europe", Trump told reporters on Wednesday. "If I was popular in Europe, I wouldn't be doing my job."
TRUMP on his low approval ratings in Europe: "I could be the most popular person in Europe. I could run for any office if I wanted to. I don't want to." pic.twitter.com/6qltEZeeuL— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) 2 января 2019 г.
Donald Trump has claimed that EU members take advantage of his country with respect to trade and defence, and has called on them to boost military spending, including within the framework of NATO.
"Germany pays 1 percent", he said, referring to Berlin's defence spending, which was estimated at 1.2 percent of GDP last year. "They should be paying 4 percent. They're paying 1 percent. They should be paying even more than that. Other countries pay a small percentage of what they should be paying. So, when I say I'm sorry, folks, you have to pay up, I shouldn't be popular in Europe."
Trump's fellow Republican and bitter critic Mitt Romney said in a scathing op-ed piece that the American president's actions and protectionist agenda had caused his popularity to sink in Europe. Romney pointed to a rapid decline of Trump's image among key allies such as Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden.
The POTUS appeared to be aware of his low European ratings, but stressed that he still maintains "very good" relations with EU leaders. "I don't care about Europe. I'm not elected by Europeans, I'm elected by Americans. And by American taxpayers, frankly", he said of the polls.
He added that his protectionist agenda would be welcomed in Europe. "I could be the most popular person in Europe. I could run for any office if I wanted to but I don't want to. I want people to treat us fairly and they're not."
Some commenters believe that Trump's popularity overseas should not be a talking point.
In what capacity does our president’s popularity in foreign countries even enter a conversation?— the obvious question (@glentnelson) 3 января 2019 г.
Exactly right--wanting to be "liked" by the rest of the world is futile. They all hated Reagan--who brought down the USSR…— M B Gilmore (@m_gilmore) 3 января 2019 г.
Others contended that the US president's chances of winning favour among Europeans are pretty low.
I live in Europe and I disagree. People do not even bring him up anymore, I think they are embarrassed FOR me now.— Karla K. Hickey (@WEKANMOVEON) 3 января 2019 г.
Trump's illusions are enormous. These illusions are the major obstacles to an efficiant WH.— Opinion (@Difficultdk) 3 января 2019 г.
The Trump administration strained its relations with its European allies following the introduction of import tariffs on aluminium and steel on 1 June 2018 — a move widely criticised by the leaders of France, Germany, and the UK.
Trump has also schooled his NATO allies from the European Union for what he said was not sticking to their spending commitments. "The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable," he said in July. "While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more."
Additionally, Donald Trump bashed Germany for constructing Nord Stream 2, a pipeline stretching from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea, and threatened to sanction European firms investing in the project.
Another spark that caught flak from Brussels was the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump announced last May. The remaining signatories of the accord, including Germany, France and the UK, have condemned his move and vowed to uphold their commitment to the deal.