BRUSSELS, July 17 (Xinhua) -- In the shock wave that followed the Monday meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, European allies, long concerned by flailing relations with Washington, have expressed shock at what appeared to be the American president's alignment with his Russian counterpart.
At the press conference after the meeting, the two leaders voiced their satisfaction with the meeting as a "very constructive" one that marks the "first important step" towards better ties.
The joint press conference was overshadowed by media questions about Moscow's alleged meddling with U.S. elections, despite Putin's categorical denial of any interference and Trump's attacking of the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Blaming his predecessor Barack Obama and others for prior bad relations with Russia, Trump said, "I don't see any reason why they [Russians] would have done it."
Trump is facing a strong backlash at home as political allies and opponents react strongly to his words, including U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan who said the president "must appreciate that Russia is not our ally."
European allies have also reacted to Trump's position at the end of his meeting with Putin.
One of the strongest critiques came from German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who said in a statement "We can no longer rely on the White House." "To maintain our partnership with the U.S. we must readjust it," Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper group. "The first clear consequence can only be that we need to align ourselves even more closely in Europe."
Just prior to the Helsinki meeting, Trump had referred to the European Union as "foes" in trade, stoking more anger in line with recent tensions over stiff American tariffs on European steel and aluminum, a barrier to trade that the White House has refused to waive for its European allies.
European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted Sunday in response that "America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news."
Monday's press conference, however, left Europeans even more shocked, as they perceived Trump to be turning his back on the EU, in favor of stronger relations with Moscow.
French newspaper Le Monde noted that Trump had stacked up anti-European positions in the days just before the meeting, including his "aggressive declarations" at the annual NATO summit, his declaration of the EU as "foes" in trade, and his advice to British Prime Minister Theresa May to sue the EU in court over Brexit negotiations.
The Guardian newspaper rated the Helsinki press conference "as one of the most astonishing ever," particularly for Trump's appearance of taking Putin's word over the claims of American intelligence services.
Also noted by the Guardian was the U.S. president's lack of comments on key issues for European allies, such as conflict in Ukraine since 2014, and the alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury, England, in March 2018.
German news outlet Handelsblatt wrote that Europe itself was mostly ignored during the Helsinki meeting, with both sides in favor of discussions over global security matters and the U.S. election controversy.
Putin promised continued humanitarian aid for refugees that "could ease the 'migratory pressure' on Europe, marking one of the very few references to Europe made by the two men," pointed out Handelsblatt.
"The outcome of the Helsinki meeting is clear: the abandonment of five decades of transatlantic cooperation between Western Europe and the U.S.," wrote the Politico in an editorial. The news outlet accused Trump of "selling out" Ukraine in exchange for "a football and a photo-op."
Politico also reported that Russian news media had considered Putin the dominant party in the press conference, calling Trump "quiet, modest" and obviously "outmanoeuvred" by the Russian President.