Monday, 21 January, 2019

At NATO, abrasive Trump lashes Germany for being Russian 'captive'

US President Donald Trump addresses an event at the White House in Washington last month US President Donald Trump addresses an event at the White House in Washington last month Credit Nicholas Kamm Getty Images
Melinda Barton | 11 July, 2018, 15:29

With tensions in the Western defence alliance already running high over Trump's demands for more contributions to ease the burden on US taxpayers, and a nationalistic stance that has seen trade disputes threaten economic growth in Europe, the latest remarks will fuel concerns among allies over the USA role in keeping the peace that has reigned since World War Two.

She said: "We have a tight relationship with our allies in the European Union, yet this government is tearing us away from them just as Trump is making a mockery of our so-called special relationship".

"President Trump has a very direct language and message on defence spending, but fundamentally we all agree that we need fair burden sharing", Stoltenberg said on his arrival at the summit.

Mr Trump immediately targeted Germany as he spoke in Brussels - citing an "inappropriate" gas deal with Russian Federation that he claimed has left Berlin "totally controlled" by Moscow.

The belligerent remarks were made at Trump's first engagement of the two-day summit in Belgium, as he sat for breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"It's going to be an interesting time in the United Kingdom, and it's certainly going to be an interesting time with NATO", Trump told reporters at the White House today before leaving for Brussels.

Trump rejected Stoltenberg's reasoning, arguing Germany is merely "making Russian Federation richer".

That would send the alliance into a tailspin, damaging security by opening the question of whether NATO's most powerful member is still willing to defend its allies if one were attacked.

Citing the expanding flow of Russian natural gas into Germany and the rest of Europe, the president said the country is "a captive of the Russians", the Guardian reported.

A year ago saw the biggest increase in defence spending in a generation, he said.

In what was supposed to be a brief photo op ahead of a bilateral breakfast meeting, Trump appeared to catch the secretary-general off guard, launching into the broadside as cameras clicked away and Stoltenberg struggled to get a word in. "This is serious. My task is to try to minimise the negative impact on NATO", Stoltenberg told a forum in the margins of the summit.

Some have expressed fears for the future of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation itself, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated that Europe may no longer be able to rely on its United States ally. The project is opposed by the USA and some European Union members.

The president has lashed out at countries that fall short.

Trump said: "We're protecting Germany, we're protecting France, we're protecting all of these countries". "Other presidents never did anything about it because i don't think they understood it, or they just didn't want to get involved", Trump suggested, warning he would take a very different approach.

"Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have all that many", he said. "We're not going to put up with it, we can't put up with it and it's inappropriate".

Of his meetings in Brussels and Britain and with Putin, he said: "Frankly, [the meeting with] Putin may be the easiest of them all - who would think?"

President Trump stressed he intends to remodel the U.S. "And I think that leaders are also looking forward to your thoughts about the meeting with President Putin later on".

The NATO summit is also being attended by leaders of so-called NATO partner states that are not members of the alliance.