Trump Blasts Germany over Russia, Demands Greater Defense Spending from NATO

Trump Blasts Germany over Russia, Demands Greater Defense Spending from NATO

Wednesday, 11 July, 2018 - 17:45
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Donald Trump are seen as they pose for a family photo at the start of the NATO summit. (Reuters)
US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel traded barbs on Wednesday ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels where the American leader urged allies to double spending on their own defense.

There was drama ahead of the summit when Trump said Germany was being a “captive” to Russia due to its energy reliance. The president, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that kicked off his visit, took issue with the US protecting Germany as it strikes deals with Russia.

"I have to say, I think it's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we're supposed to be guarding against Russia," Trump said at a breakfast with Stoltenberg. "We're supposed to protect you against Russia but they're paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that's very inappropriate."

Trump appeared to substantially overstate German reliance on Russian energy and to imply Berlin was funding a pipeline which Merkel says is a commercial venture.

She hit back at Trump’s remark that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia” through gas imports by contrasting her own experience of growing up in Soviet-controlled East Germany with the sovereign, united Germany now playing a major role in NATO.

Trump appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to Germany's northeastern Baltic coast, bypassing Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine and doubling the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany.

The vast undersea pipeline is opposed by the US and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe.

It is expected to be online at the end of 2019

Trump and Merkel later held businesslike talks on the sidelines. Trump said he had a “very, very good relationship” with Merkel, who described the two as “good partners”.

At the NATO summit, he suggested that allies commit to spending 4 percent of their gross domestic product on defense — double the current goal of 2 percent by 2024.

That would represent a massive upheaval of budgetary priorities in Europe where Germany and many others have pledged only to reach two percent by 2030.

Asked to confirm Trump’s proposal, Stoltenberg did not give a direct answer but said the aim first was to reach two percent.

A White House official said four percent was not a formal proposal. US defense spending in 2017 was 3.6 percent of GDP.

Leaders formally reiterated their “unwavering commitment” to raising spending and to better share the costs of joint defense.

A source close to French President Emmanuel Macron said Trump had voiced his “personal attachment” to Europe and gave “rather positive and constructive messages” to his allies.

“There is no break-up between America and Europe,” the source said after Macron and Trump held “friendly” talks.

But with tensions in the Western alliance smouldering over Trump’s trade tariffs on European steel and his demands for more contributions to ease the burden on US taxpayers, his earlier remarks fueled concerns among allies for the US role in keeping the peace that has reigned since World War Two.

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