Trump at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit: 'Germany is a captive of Russia'

Remigio Civitarese
Luglio 11, 2018

"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 breakfast with Stoltenberg.

But Mr Trump has intensified the demands to such an extent that allies worry it could damage North Atlantic Treaty Organisation morale and play into the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who they accuse of trying to destabilise the West.

"We expect 8 allies to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense this year, compared to just 3 allies in 2014", said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"And then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they're paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia", Trump said.

Stoltenberg said alliance leaders on July 12 will meet with the presidents of Georgia and Ukraine "to address regional challenges" and to "discuss their defense reforms and NATO's continuing support". "Well they could increase it immediately, tomorrow, and have no problem", Trump said.

Western alliances with the U.S. have been strained as Trump is very vocal about his "American first" policies.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen hit back at Trump's truculent remarks: "We have a lot of issues with Russian Federation without any doubt", she told reporters in English.

First lady Melania Trump looks on as President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, July 10, 2018, in Washington.

Referring to Monday's planned summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Mr Trump added: "And I have Putin".

"I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union", she said of her youth in Communist East Germany. First of all, dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have that many.

Stoltenberg said he expected a "open and frank" debate about defence spending at the summit but tried to play down the differences opening up between allies.

Trump's criticism of the alliance has stood in stark contrast with his warm words for NATO's main adversary, Russia.

"When we stand together, also in dealing with Russian Federation, we are stronger", Stoltenberg replied.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini even had some Trump-esque praise for Mr. Putin, whom he hoped to meet during a trip to Moscow for the Wold Cup final. In recent weeks, various European leaders have also threatened to retaliate against US tariffs and filed complaints to the World Trade Organization.

Responding to Trump's recent criticism - or perhaps anticipating more - European Council President Donald Tusk offered a rebuttal ahead of Trump's arrival on European soil.

Trump's attack comes at a time when Germany, Europe's biggest economy, spends little on defense and has a woefully unprepared and inoperable military.

In Europe this year, four countries will meet the 2 percent target - compared with three last year - and another two nations will reach it if the figures are rounded up to one decimal place.

The hint of US withdrawal from Europe, while unlikely, indeed seems to have made many countries hike their defense spending. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. "Will they reimburse the U.S.?" he said in one tweet.

The 1.5 percent level forecast for NATO's European members in 2018 compares to 1.46 percent previous year, 1.44 percent in 2016 and 1.42 percent in 2015.

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