(BRUSSELS) — President Donald Trump came out swinging ahead of Wednesday’s NATO summit by slamming Germany for not spending enough on defense and accusing the country of being “captive” to Russia.
“Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” Trump said in a searing critique of Germany’s gas pipeline deal with the country NATO calls its greatest threat to their alliance.
“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 and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump said.
“So we’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries and then numerous of these countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they’re paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia,” Trump said. “So we’re supposed to protect you against Russia, but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia. I think that’s very inappropriate.”
Trump was referring to the controversial $12 billion proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.
In a stunning back and forth at Wednesday morning’s bilateral breakfast at the ambassador’s residence in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg defended NATO’s alliance as Trump continued to lob attacks on Germany.
“You know, NATO is the alliance of 29 nations, there’s some disagreements,” Stoltenberg said. “And gas from Russia to Germany is where the allies disagree. Despite the differences, we’ve always been able to protect and to defend each other. We’re stronger together than apart. Two World Wars and the Cold War showed we are stronger together than apart.”
But Trump wasn’t buying it.
“How can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the person you want protection against or from the group that you want protection against?” Trump asked.
“When we stand together, also in dealing with Russia, we are stronger,” Stoltenberg replied.
“You’re just making Russia richer. You’re not dealing with Russia, you’re making Russia richer,” Trump said.
“We’re supposed to protect Germany but they’re getting their energy from Russia. Explain that. And it can’t be explained,” Trump said.
Sitting at the table with the president were Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, Trump defended his public reprimanding of allied countries over their defense spending.
“This has been brought up by other presidents. But other presidents never did anything about it because I don’t think they’d up it or wanted to get involved,” Trump said. “I have to bring it up because it’s unfair to our country or our taxpayers. I think these countries have to step it up, not over a 10-year period, but immediately.”
Trump has called on allied countries to meet or exceed the 2014 Wales summit goal of spending 2 percent GDP on defense spending. According to a NATO report released Tuesday, eight of the 29 member nations are expected to reach that goal by the end of 2018.
As cameras left the room, Trump assured reporters his tough tone will encourage NATO members to pony up: “I have great confidence they’ll spend more.”
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