BRUSSELS, July 12, 2018 (News Wires) — President Donald Trump renewed his pressure tactics on fellow NATO nations to increase their defence spending on Thursday, hammering US allies on Twitter as he attended a second day of meetings with leaders of the military alliance.
Trump, in a series of tweets from Brussels, said that, "Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia."
He complained the United States "pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidise Europe" and demanded that member nations meet their pledge to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence, which "must ultimately go to 4 Per cent!"
Trump has taken an aggressive tone during the NATO summit, questioning the value of an alliance that has defined decades of American foreign policy, torching an ally and proposing a massive increase in European defence spending.
Under fire for his warm embrace of Russia's Vladimir Putin, Trump on Wednesday turned a harsh spotlight on Germany's own ties to Russia, alleging that a natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Angela Merkel's government "totally controlled" and "captive" to Russia.
He continued the attack on Thursday, complaining that, "Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia."
"Not acceptable!" he railed before arriving late at NATO headquarters for a morning of meetings that will include talks with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Romania, Ukraine and Georgia. In the afternoon, he heads to his next stop: the United Kingdom.
Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, echoed Trump's rhetoric, telling Fox Business Network that "Germany is a tremendous problem, both for Europe itself, and for the United States in this sense."
"What's more surprising, the fact that the President Trump is calling them out on that or that previous presidents haven't?" he asked. "It's really extraordinary that Donald Trump has to be the person to point out that the emperor in Europe has no clothes."
The tough rhetoric against a core ally comes just days before Trump is set to meet one-on-one with Putin in Finland.
With scorching language, Trump questioned the necessity of the alliance that formed a bulwark against Soviet aggression, tweeting after a day of contentious meetings: "What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?"
During the meetings, he demanded via tweet that NATO countries "Must pay 2 per cent of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025" and then rattled them further by privately suggesting member nations should spend 4 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence — a bigger share than even the United States currently pays, according to NATO statistics.
It was the most recent in a series of demands and insults that critics fear will undermine a decades-old alliance launched to counterbalance Soviet aggressions. And it comes just days before Trump sits down with Putin at the conclusion of his closely watched European trip.
Trump has spent weeks berating members of the alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defence, accusing Europe of freeloading off the US and raising doubts about whether he would come to members' defence if they were ever attacked.
He described the current situation as "disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States."
From Brussels, Trump heads to England, where May's government is in turmoil over her plans for exiting the European Union.
Although administration officials point to the long-standing alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom, Trump's itinerary will largely keep him out of central London, where significant protests are expected.
Instead, a series of events — a black-tie dinner with business leaders, a meeting with May and an audience with Queen Elizabeth II — will happen outside the bustling city, where Mayor Sadiq Khan has been in a verbal battle with Trump.
Woody Johnson, the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom, dismissed the significance of the protests, telling Fox News that one of the reasons the two countries are so close "is because we have the freedoms that we've all fought for. And one of the freedoms we have is freedom of speech and the freedom to express your views. And I know that's valued very highly over here and people can disagree strongly and still go out to dinner."
He also said that meeting the queen would be an experience that Trump "will really cherish."
BRUSSELS, July 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Chancellor Angela Merkel recalled her own youth in Soviet-dominated East Germany and said Germany was independent in its policy choices in a pointed response to US President Donald Trump saying Berlin was “totally controlled by Russia”.
Three hours after Trump’s startling tirade over German imports of Russian gas and its slowness to increase defence spending, Merkel told reporters on arrival at a NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday: “I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union.
“I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.”
She also defended Germany’s contribution to an alliance which Trump says has placed too much burden on the US taxpayer: “Germany does a lot for NATO,” she said.
“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 towards Afghanistan. In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”
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.”
BRUSSELS, July 11, 2018 (News Wires) -- Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is to commit 440 additional British troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan amid pressure from Donald Trump for European allies to contribute more to their collective defence.
The US president set the tone for his attendance at the two-day alliance summit starting on Wednesday in Brussels with a typically combative tweet reminding the Europeans that the US spent “many times more” on their defence than any other alliance member.
“Not fair to the US taxpayer,” he wrote, “NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!” His intervention is likely to increase nervousness among European and Canadian leaders about Mr Trump’s commitment to the alliance and the wider international following the acrimonious break-up of the G7 summit in Quebec in June.
Ahead of the gathering, Mrs May was keen to emphasise that as well as supplying additional troops for Afghanistan, the UK was one of just five alliance members to meet the target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence.
“The alliance can rely on the UK to lead by example, not just in meeting the 2 per cent pledge but by contributing our cutting edge capabilities to operations around the world,” she said as quoted by Scotland's national newspaper of Scotsman.
“In committing additional troops to the Train Advise Assist operation in Afghanistan we have underlined once again that when NATO calls, the UK is among the first to answer.”
The extra troops, from the Welsh Guards, will bolster the UK-led Kabul Security Force which provides protection for NATO civilian staff engaged in capacity-building programmes in Afghanistan, as well as mentoring Afghan forces in the capital.
They will begin deploying in August with a second contingent to follow in February taking the total UK military presence in the country to 1,100. In a momentous week for Anglo-US relations, Mr Trump will follow his attendance at the NATO summit with his first visit as president to Britain before going on to hold talks with Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital Helsinki.
His willingness to meet the Russian president unnerved some in the diplomatic community at a time when Mrs May has been seeking to isolate Moscow over the Salisbury nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, which has since claimed the life of 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess.
The president also ruffled feathers with decidedly undiplomatic remarks before leaving Washington, saying Britain was in “turmoil” and that it was “up to the people” whether they wanted to keep Mrs May as Prime Minister.
He also suggested he could find time to talk to his “friend” Boris Johnson, who has just rocked the Government with his bombshell resignation over Mrs May’s Brexit plans, and that he would find it easier dealing with Mr Putin than America’s European allies.
“So I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil. And I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of all”, as he and his wife Melania prepared to board the Marine One presidential helicopter on the White House lawn. Mrs May, for her part, insisted that she was looking forward to meeting the president, both in Brussels and when she hosts him in the UK.
“There’s much for us to discuss. “As you know, the special relationship we have to the United States is our longest and deepest defence and security relationship, so we will be talking about those issues but also talking about trade issues,” she told a press conference to mark the end of the Western Balkans summit in London.
“There are particular issues between the EU and the United States because of the trade tariff issue at the moment, when he imposed those tariffs on steel and aluminium and the EU responded.
“We will be talking positively about how we can continue to work together in our special relationship for the good of people living in the UK and the United States and, actually, for the wider good.”
BRUSSELS, July 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his country is offering to lead NATO's new military training mission in Iraq for the first year and stands ready to provide 250 troops plus helicopters for the effort.
Trudeau said Wednesday that it is important to help build the conflict-ravaged country's resilience against the Islamic State group.
Speaking at a German Marshall Fund event on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, Trudeau said that "we have to build that democracy and strengthen it," and doing so "is something that we believe in deeply."
NATO leaders are expected to announce later Wednesday that the alliance is stepping up its troop training and military academy building effort in Iraq, with hundreds of trainers operating out of the capital, Baghdad.
WASHINGTON, July 8, 2018 (News Wires) - With the established global order on shaky footing, President Donald Trump's weeklong trip to Europe will test already strained bonds with some of the United States' closest allies, then put him face to face with the leader of the country whose electoral interference was meant to help put him in office.
Trump departs Tuesday on a four-nation tour amid simmering disputes over trade and military spending with fellow Western democracies and speculation about whether he will rebuke or embrace Russian President Vladimir Putin. He meets the Russian leader in Helsinki as the finale of a trip with earlier stops in Belgium, England and Scotland.
Trump has shown little regard for America's traditional bonds with the Old World, publicly upbraiding world leaders at NATO's new headquarters a year ago for not spending enough on defense and delivering searing indictments of Western trading partners last month at an international summit in Canada. On this trip, after meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels, he'll travel to the United Kingdom, where widespread protests are expected, before he heads to one of his Scottish golf resorts for the weekend.
In the run-up to his trip, the president did little to ease European concerns by delivering fresh broadsides against NATO, an intergovernmental military alliance of 29 North American and European countries aimed at countering possible Russian aggression.
"I'll tell NATO: 'You've got to start paying your bills,'" Trump pledged at a rally last week in Montana in which he bemoaned that Americans were "the schmucks that are paying for the whole thing."
He then laced into German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will be in attendance in Brussels, complaining about how much the United States put toward Germany's defense: "And I said, you know, Angela, I can't guarantee it, but we're protecting you, and it means a lot more to you. ... I don't know how much protection we get from protecting you."
At the same time, he declared that "Putin is fine" and that he had been preparing for their summit "all my life."
Experts fear the trip could produce a repeat of the dynamics from Trump's last trip abroad, when he admonished Group of Seven allied nations at a summit in Canada before heading to Singapore, where he showered praise on one of America's longest-standing adversaries, North Korea's Kim Jong Un.
"What people are worried about this trip is he'll have equally difficult interactions with his NATO counterparts," including Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said James Goldgeier, a visiting senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and professor at American University, who is an expert in NATO and security alliances.
"The main concern is he will spend much of the time berating them on not spending enough on defense" before having "a love fest with Putin, like he did with Chairman Kim," Goldgeier said. He added that if Trump is warmer toward Putin than the leaders of the military alliance that was founded to protect Europe from Soviet threats, it would go "a long way to undermining NATO, undermining the trans-Atlantic relationship, undermining our relationship with our allies."
Trump is expected to continue to press NATO nations to fulfill their commitments to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. Trump has argued that countries not paying their fair share are freeloading off the US and has threatened to stop protecting those he feels pay too little.
NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends. Trump sent letters to the leaders of several NATO countries ahead of his visit, warning that it would become "increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries fail to meet our shared collective security commitments."
The ties between the US and many of its longest-standing allies have frayed since Trump took office and put his "America first" agenda into practice. He has pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement as well as the Iran nuclear deal, slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and threatened additional tariffs on products like automobiles.
Although administration officials point to the long-standing alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom, Trump's itinerary will largely keep him out of central London, where significant protests are expected. Instead, a series of events - a black-tie dinner with business leaders, a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May and an audience with Queen Elizabeth II - will happen outside the bustling city, where Mayor Sadiq Khan has been in a verbal battle with Trump.
Woody Johnson, Trump's ambassador to the UK, said the president is aware of the planned protests but insisted that Trump "appreciates free speech" in both countries.
The G-7 world leaders' meeting in Canada last month ended in tumult when Trump suddenly retracted his endorsement of the group's final joint statement after his departure and railed against Trudeau by midflight tweet en route to Singapore for his summit with Kim, a meeting that critics said legitimized Kim on the world stage without securing a clear pathway to the denuclearization.
"The president was willing to offer concessions to Kim without getting anything specific or concrete in return," said Jeffrey Rathke, deputy director of the Europe Program at the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies.
He said the decision had sparked "kind of a frenzy" about what concessions Trump might be willing to offer Putin without NATO signoff.
On Putin's wish list: an end to US military exercises in Europe and the scaling back of U.S. forces there. The summit also will offer Putin a chance to try to persuade Trump to lift some of the sanctions imposed on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea, its support for separatists fighting the government in eastern Ukraine and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Trump has already met with Putin twice as president, including a meeting on the sidelines of a summit in Germany that stretched for more than two hours. But plans for a full-fledged summit had been delayed amid the FBI and congressional probes into whether Trump campaign aides coordinated with Russia to help Trump win the election. Trump has dismissed those probes as nothing but a "witch hunt."