Trump claims Germany ‘totally controlled’ by Russia
BRUSSELS, July 11, 2018 (News Wires) - In a combative start to his NATO visit, President Donald Trump asserted Wednesday that a pipeline project has made Germany “totally controlled” by and “captive to Russia” and blasted allies’ defence spending, opening what was expected to be a fraught summit with a list of grievances involving American allies.
Trump, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, 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 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.”
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 US and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe.
Trump said “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia” and urged NATO to look into the issue.
Stoltenberg pushed back, stressing that NATO members have been able to work together despite their differences.
It was an unusual criticism coming from Trump, who has appeared eager to cozy up to Putin and who has dismissed the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia tried to
undermine Western democracy by meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Trump win. During the campaign, Trump often resorted to the tactic of falsely accusing his
opponents of things he had been criticised for doing.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced hours after the tit-for-tat over Germany that Trump would meet later Wednesday with Merkel, as well as with French
President Emmanuel Macron. Journalists will not be allowed to cover either meeting, she said.
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, which comes amid increasingly frayed relations between the “America first” president and the United States’
closest traditional allies.
“The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough, especially some. So we’re going to have a meeting on that,” Trump said as he arrived at the
breakfast, describing the situation as “disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States and we’re going to make it fair.”
“They will spend more,” he later predicted. “I have great confidence they’ll be spending more.”