United States ambassador tries to lower expectation for Trump-Putin meeting

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For an alliance based on solidarity, disunity is precisely the wrong message Trump should be taking to his meeting this month with the cunning Putin in Helsinki. The president has long spoken disdainfully of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and other multilateral institutions, including the European Union, and has been especially critical of Germany for not spending a bigger portion of its own budget on defense.

A senior administration official with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly did not initially answer the question about possible troop withdrawals on a conference call with reporters.

Trump accused Merkel of pursuing oil and gas deals with Russian Federation that provide Moscow with "billions and billions of dollars" while looking to the United States to protect Germany from Russia's military. "Within 24 hours, Mr. Trump can change his position by 180 degrees", said Lindner, although he warned against growing anti-American sentiments given that the United States was and would remain Germany's closest ally.

Last month, a G-7 meeting in Canada turned sour when Trump disparaged allies and refused to sign a joint statement.

Separately, U.S. Representative to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters Thursday that the alliance is moving forward together, and "everyone has the same goal, and that is a strong deterrent and an alliance that is unified" against threats like Russian Federation and China. Thousands more rotate into other European countries temporarily.

Other than with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump has no other bilateral meetings now scheduled.

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"By defending itself from made-up threats, the alliance is raising constructions from the period of bloc confrontation, as it continues the construction of the USA anti-missile shield in Europe", Zakharova said, referring to the Cold War period, when Moscow itself had an global military alliance in Eastern Europe.

Still, Trump has repeatedly threatened to punish countries if they don't spend enough on defense, even suggesting the USA may not protect them if they don't pay their fair share.

He added that Trump hopes the meeting "can help reduce tensions and lead to constructive engagement that improves peace and security around the world because you can't solve problems if you're not talking about them", but said: "the ball really is in Russia's court".

As part of this plan, Trump could mothball USA bases in Europe and shift most resources spent there and in the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific region, where China and Iran pose real threats to America-and against which NATO is irrelevant.

Pentagon leaders canceled military exercises there at Trump's direction but they quickly reaffirmed the United State's "ironclad commitment" to defend South Korea.

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