President Trump began the NATO summit in Brussels today with a slam against Germany that was quickly rebutted by Chancellor Angela Merkel, then a marked softening in tone from Trump after a sit-down between the two.
During a breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump accused Germany of being “a captive of Russia” because of Berlin’s energy deals with Moscow.
“We are protecting Germany, we are protecting France, we are protecting all of these countries and then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they are paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia. I think that is very inappropriate,” Trump said.
“It should never have been allowed to happen,” he added. “Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting 60-70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.”
Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, later shot back, “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 stressed that Germany “does a lot for NATO.”
“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,” the chancellor said. “In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”
The two later had a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit. Trump told reporters at the meeting that they were have a “great” exchange.
“We’re discussing military expenditure. We’re talking about trade. We have a very, very good relationship with the chancellor. We have a tremendous relationship with Germany. They’ve made tremendous — you’ve had tremendous success and I congratulate you. Tremendous success,” he added. “And I believe that our trade will increase and lots of other things will increase. But we’ll see what happens over the next period of a few months.”
Merkel said she was “very pleased, indeed, to have this opportunity here for this exchange of views.”
“And, indeed, we had an opportunity to have an exchange about economic developments, on issues such as migration, and also the future of our trade relations,” she said.
Merkel said they also ‘briefly touched upon the upcoming trips of the president,” which include a visit to the UK and a Monday summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“And let me say that I’m very much looking forward to further extending our exchanges in the future and enhancing them,” she added. “I think they’re very important to have those exchanges together. Because after all, we are partners, we are good partners, and we wish to continue to cooperate in the future.”
Trump said they did discuss the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but did not elaborate further.