EU and US divided on Russia

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The European Union and the United States do not see relations with Russia in the same way, European Council President Donald Tusk told journalists on Thursday.

The former Polish prime minister received the US president for the first time in Brussels on Thursday. Though they found common ground on security and terrorism matters, a gap remained when it came to relations with Russia, climate change, and trade.

“My feeling is that we agreed on many areas. First and foremost on counter-terrorism and I am sure I don’t have to explain why, but some issues remain open, like climate and trade,” Tusk, who represents the 28 leaders of the EU, said.

“And I’m not 100% sure that we can say today — we means President Trump and myself — that we have a common position, a common opinion about Russia although when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine it seems that we were on the same line,” he added.

The US has taken a more friendly approach to Russia since President Trump took office. The opposite seemed to have happened towards Europe.

President Trump supported the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, while also stating that other countries should do the same. He has also dubbed NATO as obsolete, though he softened his stance towards the defense alliance recently, and criticized Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open door immigration policy.

At the same time, Trump has said he wants to “make good deals” with Russia in order to reduce current international sanctions on the latter for its annexation of Crimea.

The EU, in particular, its foreign affairs and security chief Federica Mogherini, has been a strong critic of Russia’s activities in Ukraine.

Trump’s protectionist approach has killed European efforts to reach a trade deal with the US.

Though the positions between the EU and the US have not changed with Trump’s first visit to Brussels, the European Commission has pressured Trump to increase cooperation in this area.

“It was a good, cordial and friendly discussion,” a spokesperson from the European Commission told CNBC on Thursday regarding Trump’s meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.

The 45-minute meeting was a “first opportunity to get to know each other,” the spokesperson said.

“President Juncker insisted on intensifying trade cooperation which is a win-win situation for both sides. In this context, it was agreed to start on a joint action plan on trade,” the spokesperson added.