WASHINGTON — British Prime Minister Theresa May used a joint press conference with President Trump to try and pin him down publicly on his support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an international bulwark he’s criticized in the past.
“We’re united in our recognition of NATO as the bulwark of our collective defense and today we’ve reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to this alliance. Mr. President, I think you said, confirmed that you’re 100% behind NATO,” she said, turning towards Trump to emphasize the point before promising to do her part in making sure other countries pay more into NATO “so that the burden is more fairly shared.”
The comments came during the first state visit by a foreign leader of Trump’s administration. And while both countries sought to project unity, it was apparent that there are some tensions between the U.S. and its closest ally as both work through monumental political shifts.
The United Kingdom is grappling with how to Brexit, while Trump still seems to be getting his bearings as commander-in-chief. Trump and May are both in office due to populist revolts against the status quo in their countries
British Prime Minister Theresa May and President Trump hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House Friday in Washington, D.C.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
Trump has repeatedly blasted other NATO countries for not doing their part in supporting the organization, calling the organization obsolete, and his regular praise for Russia has alarmed many in an organization that was created to stand up to the Soviet power.
In their comments on Russia the two differed as well, with May taking a hard line while Trump refused to say whether or not he’ll cancel sanctions against the country.
“We’ll see what happens. As far as the sanctions, very early to be talking about that,” he said.
May didn’t waffle.
“We believe the sanctions should continue,” she said.
Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway said earlier in the week that the White House was considering dropping the sanctions put in place against Russia after it invaded Ukraine. That set off alarms across Capitol Hill — including from some prominent Republicans.
May and Trump stand in the Oval Office Friday at the White House.
(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said he was “deeply concerned … that sanctions imposed on Russia may be lifted without resolving the unacceptable and hostile actions that caused the sanctions to be imposed by the U.S. and our allies,” and said Trump should keep the sanctions in place, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the idea “reckless.”
“For the sake of America’s national security and that of our allies, I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation and reject such a reckless course,” he said in a statement.