Merkel hits back at Trump: Europe's fate is 'in our own hands'

German chancellor Angela Merkel hit back at Trump’s recent criticism of her refugee policy and description of NATO as “obsolete,” saying in a statement on Monday that Europe’s fate is now “in our own hands.”

In an interview published Sunday with The Times of London and Bild newspapers, Trump slammed Merkel’s “utterly catastrophic mistake” to allow “all these illegals into the country” and suggested that he trusted Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin equally.

“I start off trusting both (Putin and Merkel) – but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all,” Trump said.

Merkel, whose refugee policies allowed more than one million asylum-seekers to settle in Germany in 2015 alone, said in early December that she would not cap the number of refugees allowed into Germany in the new year. Millions have been displaced by the civil war in Syria and the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

Trump also called NATO an “obsolete” organisation that was forged “many, many years ago.”

“A lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States,” Trump told the Times and Bild.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday that “Moscow shares Trump’s opinion that NATO is a remnant of past,” according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that he and NATO’s Secretary General were alarmed by Trump’s comments on NATO.

“I’ve just had a conversation with the Secretary-General of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, who has expressed concern at the comments made by Donald Trump that NATO is obsolete,” Steinmeier told reporters in Brussels.

Trump also suggested that he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia if Putin cut the size of its nuclear arsenal.

“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” Trump was quoted as saying.

“For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.”

Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said on Monday that there are no talks underway with the US to reduce Russia’s nuclear weapons stockpile, adding that “Russia doesn’t intend to raise the issue of these sanctions in its foreign contacts.”

The US and Russia are by far the world’s biggest nuclear powers. The US has 1,367 nuclear warheads on deployed strategic missiles and bombers, while Russia has 1,796 such deployed warheads, according to the latest published assessment by the US State Department.

Reuters contributed reporting.

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