NATO summit: Donald Trump meets Angela Merkel after calling Germany Russian ‘captive’



July 12, 2018 01:12:40

US President Donald Trump has held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, hours after he fiercely criticised German policy on defence spending and gas imports from Russia.

Key points:

  • Mr Trump is pushing members to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on national defence by 2024
  • NATO estimates 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by that deadline
  • Brussels is Mr Trump’s first stop of a week-long European tour that will include London and Scotland

Earlier, Mr Trump claimed a pipeline project had made Germany “totally controlled” by and “captive to Russia” during a combative breakfast that kicked off what was already expected to be a fraught NATO summit.

The tone of their remarks when they jointly addressed reporters afterward appeared businesslike.

“We’re having a great meeting. We’re discussing military expenditure, talking about trade,” Mr Trump said.

“We have a very, very good relationship with the Chancellor. We have a tremendous relationship with Germany.”

Ms Merkel said she had discussed migration and trade with Mr Trump and looked forward to further exchanges as the US remained a partner of Germany.

Earlier, Mr Trump — in a testy exchange with NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg — took issue with the US protecting Germany when the European nation is making deals with Russia.

Mr Trump appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to Germany’s north-eastern 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.

Mr Trump, in a message to Germany, asked why the US should “protect you against Russia” when the two countries were making deals.

“You tell me, is that appropriate?” he asked.

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia.”

He later said, “Germany as far, as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia” and urged NATO to look into the issue.

Mr Trump was expected to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the day.

Mr Stoltenberg pushed back, stressing 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 accuses NATO members of freeloading off the US

Mr 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.

Mr Trump said as he arrived at the breakfast that the situation was “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.”

He has been pushing NATO members to reach their agreed-to target of spending 2 per cent of their gross domestic products on national defence by 2024 and has accused those who do not of freeloading off the US.

“Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2 per cent (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made,” he tweeted while en route to Europe, asking: “Will they reimburse the US?”

The 2 per cent represents the amount each country aims to spend on its own defence, and not some kind of direct payment to NATO or the US.

NATO estimates 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.

Trump calls NATO ‘obsolete’ and Brussels a ‘hell hole’

During his campaign, Mr Trump called NATO “obsolete” and suggested the US 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”.

Mr 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 spending.

Mr Stoltenberg, for his part, has credited Mr Trump for spurring NATO nations to spend more on defence, noting the Europeans and Canada are projected to spend around $US266 billion ($359 billion) more by 2024.

He said last year’s increases marked the largest in a generation.

Arriving for his meeting with Mr Stoltenberg, Mr 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,” he said.

Brussels is Mr Trump’s 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.








First posted

July 11, 2018 20:16:39

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