U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has slammed defense organization NATO describing it as “obsolete,” despite also claiming to “understand” eastern European fears on Russian expansionism.
In interviews with Germany’s Bild news outlet and the Times of London newspaper, Trump said that he understood why eastern Europeans may fear Putin – but advocated a softer stance toward the Kremlin.
“Let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” he told The Times. “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are going to benefit.”
Trump maintained that NATO was “still important to [him,]” but accused other member states of not contributing fairly to the alliance. “[Some countries] don’t pay what they should pay,” he said.
The President-elect did have some harsh words for Russia, condemning the Kremlin’s policy in Syria for sparking a “terrible humanitarian situation.” A number of governments have accused Russian airstrikes in the Syrian city of Aleppo of hitting civilian infrastructure, including hospitals.
The Kremlin meanwhile has continued to dismiss claims that Russia and Trump have a relationship dating back several years, and that Russia holds “compromising information” on Trump.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told American broadcaster NBC that the allegations were “ridiculous,” accusing the West of rushing to label Moscow as “the bad guys.”
"I do not work in [an] intelligence agency,” Peskov said in a sit-down interview. "But I can assure you that the allegations in this funny paper, in this so-called report, they are untrue. They are all fake."
An unverified dossier published by American news site Buzzfeed on Wednesday claimed that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump over a number of years before his bid for the U.S. presidency.
It also alleged the Kremlin held “compromising information” on Trump, involving “perverted sexual acts” at Moscow’s prestigious Ritz-Carlton hotel.
As well as denying the claims, Peskov praised Trump for his level-headed approach to the situation.
"We respect [Trump’s] readiness to try to understand what is fake and what is not," Peskov said. "We respect his readiness to try to solve, to approach problems through dialogue, not through bold confrontation."
"Lots of things that's being blamed on us and our president — they're false and they're fake. Think twice before saying that Russians are bad guys," he said.