President Donald Trump makes debut as a statesman, welcoming British Prime Minister Theresa May as the first foreign leader to visit his White House. He also spoke with Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto by telephone.
President Donald Trump made his debut as a statesman Friday, welcoming British Prime Minister Theresa May as the first foreign leader to visit his White House.
The meeting is a pivotal moment in trans-Atlantic relations, which have been rocked by Trump’s election and his willingness to rethink NATO, the UN and other foundation blocks of the liberal world order.
Trump greeted May himself upon her arrival at the White House. The pair then met in the Oval Office, posing and shaking hands in front of a bust of Winston Churchill.
They will hold a joint press conference at roughly 1800 GMT before a working lunch.
May’s trip is equal parts influence campaign and charm offensive.
She is expected to give Trump an engraved quaich – a ceremonial cup exchanged by Scottish highland chiefs – in a nod to Trump’s Scottish ancestry. His mother was born on the island of Lewis.
May hopes to win the US president’s support for collective security arrangements that have underpinned European security since World War II.
Trump has decried NATO as “obsolete” and expressed a willingness to befriend Russia’s Vladimir Putin – two positions that deeply concern European leaders from London to Lisbon.
Much of Britain’s military power, including its nuclear deterrent, depends on US equipment and systems.
In private, European diplomats fret about the influence of top Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who has made common cause with right-wing nationalists and populists in France, Britain and beyond.
Shortly after his election, Trump met with right-wing British politician Nigel Farage, who has made dismantling the European Union his life’s work.
The right stuff
May arrived in the United States on Thursday and received a rapturous welcome from Republican lawmakers gathering in Philadelphia with a speech urging them to “beware” of Russia, and warning US allies to “step up” and play a greater role in global security.
Acknowledging rising tensions between the US and China, she said fears of the “eclipse of the West” would not be fulfilled if Britain and the United States continued to stand together.
May said NATO member states should contribute their fair share – a complaint made by the former and current US administrations – but defended the alliance from Trump’s claims it was “obsolete.”
May also defended the Iranian nuclear deal against the president’s criticism, saying it was “vitally important” for regional security – but must now be properly enforced.
Mexico president and Trump talk by phone, statement expected
Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto spoke with Trump by telephone on Friday, a day after cancelling a summit over the US president’s demands Mexico pay for a border wall.
An official at the Mexican president’s office confirmed the call and said a statement would be issued later with more details.