Donald Trump tore into a key ally over breakfast with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels Wednesday, claiming that Germany is "totally controlled" by Russia.
The U.S. president lashed out at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government for making oil and gas deals with Moscow, decrying the arrangement as “very inappropriate.” Trump complained that the U.S. is paying to defend Germany from Russia, while Berlin is lining the coffers of the Kremlin.
“It’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump said.
“If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia, because they supply ― they got rid of their coal plants, got rid of their nuclear, they’re getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia. I think it’s something NATO has to look at.”
Trump continued: “Germany is totally controlled by Russia, 'cause they are getting 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline."
Trump was referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will double the amount of natural gas Russia can send directly to Germany when it is completed in 2019. The project is opposed by the U.S. and some EU members.
Stoltenberg admitted that not all the NATO allies agreed on the pipeline, but the old Trump that “despite these differences, we have always been able to unite around our cause to protect and defend each other.”
Trump posted a video of the heated exchange to his Twitter account shortly after the meeting began.
Heading into a NATO meeting, Merkel responded to Trump's comments, saying: "I've experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union, and I'm very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany and can thus say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions and that's very good."
The summit is expected to be tempestuous, with Trump critical of the defense spending of many NATO members.
Before he boarded Air Force One in Washington on Tuesday, he told reporters: “NATO has not treated us very well, but I think we’ll work something out.”
He followed that up with a tweet about the European Union and how it undermines the U.S. on trade while at the same time seeking protection from the U.S. military.
President of the European Council Donald Tusk shot back at Trump’s remarks, saying: “Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have that many.”
Trump’s main gripe is that NATO members are falling short of the agreed military spending target of 2 percent of GDP — a benchmark agreed upon at a summit in Wales in 2014. However, this amount was to be reached by 2024.
So far just five countries have met that target: the U.S., Greece, Estonia, the U.K. and Latvia. Several others, such as Poland and France, are close.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed concerns that Europe would no longer be able to rely on the U.S. as an ally. But White House sources speaking to Reuters said the president would reaffirm a commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty — which says that an attack against one ally is considered an attack on all members.
Cover image: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US President Donald Trump speak at a breakfast meeting at the US chief of mission's residence in Brussels on July 11, 2018, ahead of a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit. ((BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)