North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit: Trump urges members urged to double defence spending

Blanche Robertson
July 11, 2018

Donald Trump opened his visit to Europe with a flawless presidential touch, describing our close ally Germany as being "totally controlled by Russia" because it buys natural gas from the Kremlin.

Trump, who allies hope will sign off on a summit deal to step up the West's deterrence of Russian Federation, will hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Wednesday. "We're supposed to protect you against Russian Federation but they're paying billions of dollars to Russian Federation and I think that's very inappropriate".

"We are stronger together", Stoltenberg insisted, but acknowledged that there can be differences among allies.

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.

"We're talking about trade", Trump said as he met with Merkel. He asked Stoltenberg to explain why Berlin was getting energy from Moscow, and asserted that Germany was "totally controlled" by and "captive to Russia" over a pipeline project.

"President Trump's brazen insults and denigration of one of America's most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment", read a statement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. "I think that's very inappropriate".

"The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough - especially some", the President said in a thinly veiled criticism of Germany which is intransigent on raising spending.

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"So I think the secretary-general likes Trump. And I think that leaders are also looking forward to your thoughts about the meeting with President Putin later on".

His comments come only hours before he's due to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel on the side lines of the summit in Brussels.

Merkel later responded to Trump's remarks, saying Germany, one of the biggest troop contributors to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation missions, was free of Russian control since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"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. Budget increases started after Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, and they have accelerated in the Trump era in response to the USA president's criticism.

Trump set the stage for clashes at the summit by writing to around a dozen allies to berate them for lagging on a 2014 pledge to try to spend two per cent of GDP on defence by 2024.

"It was also because of your leadership", Stoltenberg told Trump. "And past year was the biggest increase in defense spending across Europe and Canada in that generation". "On that point the American friends have a point", von der Leyen said.

Arriving in Brussels, he said it was "totally inappropriate" that Germany was paying billions of dollars to Russian Federation for oil and gas while spending little over 1% of its GDP on defence.

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