Top European official accuses Trump, Putin of trying to weaken EU

Top European official accuses Trump, Putin of trying to weaken EU
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A top European official said President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinWe, the People: A radical idea that must persist Trump's 'soldier of fortune' foreign policy Feehery: Impeachment fever bad for Democratic governing vision MORE are trying to weaken the European Union (EU).

"Countries like Russia, China but also the United States have challenged us harder than before,” Jyrki Katainen, vice president of the European Commission, told CNBC on Tuesday.

“We are [for the] first time in the history in a situation where the president of the United States and [the] president of Russia seem to share the same view on Europe: the weaker, the better, because they think that it’s better for their own country, which is obviously not right,” Katainen, a former prime minister of Finland, said.

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The U.S.'s relationship with Europe has been tenuous since Trump's election.

He imposed a wave of steel and aluminum tariffs on EU members last year and, despite a brief respite, may impose more this year.

Trump has also been openly critical of NATO, the defense organization that includes most of Europe as well the U.S., arguing that Washington contributes a disproportionate amount and protects other countries that pay less. 

The EU's relationship with Putin has been even more fraught.

Tensions have been especially high since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea and the EU responded by imposing sanctions.

“The EU is also challenged from within,” Katainen added to CNBC, referring to nationalist politicians surging across Europe.

”[These parties] want to weaken and fragment the EU – and some of those have also very close connection to Russia, to President Putin. So Russia has obviously financed some of those parties, they have interfered to our democratic processes, for instance referenda or national elections in order to weaken the EU, in order to create division between the people inside the country,” he said, describing this issue as “very dangerous.”