Tusk: Trump poses risk for Western unity on Russia
By Eszter Zalan
EU Council chief Donald Tusk has warned that it will be harder to keep the West united against Russia with Donald Trump in the White House than it has been with Barack Obama.
"Keeping European unity towards Russia in the conflict with Ukraine, and more broadly also in global issues, was possible also thanks to the large support from President Obama," Tusk told Polish broadcaster TVN24.
"Today, I think that after the election and the victory of Donald Trump, it will be harder to build such unequivocal and uniform policy of the whole western world towards Russia. But one cannot give in," he said, according to Reuters.
Trump promised during his election campaign to improve Washington's relations with Russian president Vladimir Putin and questioned whether the US should protect allies spending too little on their defence.
That raised fears Trump could withdraw funding for NATO at a time of heightened tensions with Russia, a major concern for EU member states like Poland and the Baltic countries.
Tusk said Trump's statements reflect a different attitude towards Europe, NATO and Russia than his predecessors.
The former Polish prime minister said that in his first conversation with Trump, the president-elect wanted to know more about Brexit rather than about "eastern issues".
On sanctions Tusk said Russia should not be invited back to the G7, the club of major industrial powers, and that he expects the EU will extend its economic restrictions toward Russia to halfway through next year.
"There are reasons for which the western world ... has decided in favour of such a tough stance versus Russia and none of these reasons have disappeared," he said.
The US and the EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia after its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
Dinner for 27
EU leaders are expected to review European security and defence issues at the last summit for the year in two weeks time.
Breaking with tradition, the summit will last only one day and will end with a dinner, to which British prime minister Theresa May has not been invited.
The 27 leaders first met among themselves in September in Bratislava after Brexit, to reflect on how the EU should be reformed in the wake of the UK referendum result to leave the bloc.
The 27 leaders pledged to carry on the "Bratislava project" that has been thin on substance but is due to deliver proposals by next March when the EU will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding document, the Treaty of Rome.