After meeting Turkey's Erdoğan, Trump mouths “I like him, I like him"

U.S. President Donald Trump mouthed “I like him, I like him” after making small talk with Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at this week’s NATO summit.

Trump’s conservative populism was on full display in Brussels as he chatted with Erdoğan and Hungary’s Viktor Orban while chastising Germany for what he said was its close relations with Russia and fellow NATO members for what he said was their failure to “pay their way” on military spending.

“Many of Europe’s leaders – and Merkel and May in particular – embody all that Trump abhors in politics: the centrist, technocrat caution of the political elite he is trying to smash,” wrote Tom Mctague for Politico. “The bilateral relationship cannot bypass this fundamental issue, according to those close to Europe’s leaders.”

“For Europe’s leaders, it’s personal,” he said.

Erdoğan and Orban are part of a new brand of authoritarian leaders, modelled loosely on the rule of President Vladimir Putin, who are seeking to wield increasing power over their countries’ civil society, courts, bureaucracy and business world.

In Ankara this week, Erdoğan inaugurated himself as president with vast, new executive powers in a ceremony at his palace, attended by fellow authoritarians from Central Asia, Africa, Russia and Venezuela. Meanwhile, Orban has declared himself the protector of Europe, and Germany, via his right-wing, anti-immigration policies.

“Boil it down and Trump represents everything his most important transatlantic allies have been forced to define themselves against, whether at home or in Europe at large," Mctague said.