2018-07-11 12:49:44 UTC
'Germany, as far as I'm concerned, is captive to Russia,' U.S. president says
because of gas pipeline
The Associated Press · Posted: Jul 11, 2018 3:13 AM ET | Last Updated: an
U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens
Stoltenberg before a bilateral breakfast ahead of the NATO Summit in
Brussels. Trump took issue with the U.S. protecting Germany when the European
nation is making deals with Russia. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
U.S. President Donald Trump claimed a pipeline project has made Germany
"totally controlled" by and "captive to Russia" during a combative breakfast
Wednesday that kicked off what was already expected to be a fraught NATO
Trump, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, took
issue with the U.S. protecting Germany when the European nation is making
deals with Russia.
Trudeau not planning one-on-one meeting with Trump at NATO summit
The president 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 U.S. and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow
greater leverage over Western Europe.
Trump, in a message to Germany, asked why the U.S. should "protect you
against Russia" when the two countries are making deals.
'Germany is totally controlled by Russia'
"You tell me, is that appropriate?" he asked, adding that: "Germany is
totally controlled by Russia."
He later said that, "Germany, as far as I'm concerned, is captive to Russia"
and urged NATO to look into the issue. Trump was expected to see German
Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the day.
In response to Trump's remarks, Merkel told reporters that Germany can make
"independent policies" and "independent decisions."
She also defended her country's contribution to the alliance, which Trump
says has placed too much burden on the U.S. taxpayer, and said "Germany does
a lot for NATO."
"Germany is the second largest provider of troops, the largest part of our
military capacity is offered to NATO and until today, we have a strong
engagement toward Afghanistan, in that we also defend the interests of the
United States," Merkel said.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Melania Trump walk down the stairway of Air
Force One as they arrive at Melsbroek Military airport in Melsbroek, Belgium,
on Tuesday. U.S. President Donald Trump is in Brussels to attend a two-day
NATO summit. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press)
Stoltenberg also pushed back, stressing that NATO members have been able to
work together despite their differences.
The dramatic exchange set the tone for what was already expected to be a
tense day of meetings with leaders of the military alliance. Trump is
expected to continue hammering jittery NATO allies about their military
spending during the summit meeting, which comes amid increasingly frayed
relations between the "America first" president and the United States'
closest traditional allies.
Trump misrepresents NATO spending
Trump said as he arrived at the breakfast that the situation is "not fair to
the taxpayers of the United States but we will make it fair."
"They will spend more," he later predicted. "I have great confidence they'll
be spending more."
Trump has been pushing NATO members to reach their agreed-to target of
spending two per cent of their gross domestic products on national defence by
2024 and has accused those who don't of freeloading off the U.S.
PM says there is no plan to double defence budget
"Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short
of their current commitment of 2% (which is low), but are also delinquent for
many years in payments that have not been made," he tweeted Tuesday while en
route to Europe, asking: "Will they reimburse the U.S.?"
That's not how the spending works. The two per cent represents the amount
each country aims to spend on its own defence, not some kind of direct
payment to NATO or the U.S.
Money raised 'because of me'
NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by
2024 based on current trends.
During his campaign, Trump called NATO "obsolete" and suggested the U.S.
might not come to the defence of members if they found themselves under
attack a shift that would represent a fundamental realignment of the modern
world order. He also called Brussels a "hell hole" and "a mess." Trump has
moderated his language somewhat since taking office, but has continued to
dwell on the issue, even as many NATO members have agreed to up their
Stoltenberg, for his part, has credited Trump for spurring NATO nations to
spend more on defence, noting that the Europeans and Canada are projected to
spend around $266 billion US more by 2024. He said Wednesday that last year's
increases marked the largest in a generation.
Arriving for his meeting with Stoltenberg, Trump told the NATO chief that
"because of me they've raised about $40 billion over the last year. So I
think the secretary general likes Trump. He may be the only one, but that's
OK with me."
'Dear America, appreciate your allies'
Trump was also participating in a welcome ceremony, a meeting of the North
Atlantic Council and a working dinner with some of the same leaders he
berated over trade during his last world leaders summit in Canada last month.
Brussels is the first stop of a week-long European tour that will include
stops in London and Scotland, as well as a highly anticipated meet with
Russia's Vladimir Putin.
Trump predicted as he departed Washington that the "easiest" leg of his
journey would be his scheduled sit-down with Putin a comment that did
little to reassure allies fretting over his potential embrace of a Russian
leader U.S. intelligence officials accuse of meddling in the 2016 elections
to help Trump win.
On the eve of the NATO summit, European Council President Donald Tusk pushed
back against Trump's constant criticism of European allies and urged him to
remember who his friends are when he meets with Putin in Helsinki.
"Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have all that
many," he said.