Ahead of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit, Trump takes on European Union over trade spending

Blanche Robertson
July 12, 2018

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders will try on Thursday to move beyond the demands of Donald Trump, the USA president, for higher defence spending, and focus on ending the long war in Afghanistan, in the second day of a summit in Brussels underscored by transatlantic tensions.

During the morning meeting with Stoltenberg, Trump also lambasted defense bloc allies and Germany in particular for giving billions of dollars to Russian Federation, a country the members "should be defended against". "The U.S.is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them", Mr Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.

The US president accused Germany of only spending "a little bit over 1 percent" of its economic output on defence compared to the 4.2 percent spent by the US "in actual numbers".

Drawing on her own background, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed back sharply, insisting that Germany makes its own decisions.

Instead, a series of events - a black-tie dinner with business leaders, a meeting with May and an audience with Queen Elizabeth II - will happen outside the bustling city, where Mayor Sadiq Khan has been in a verbal battle with Trump. The organization is asking all member states spend a minimum 2 percent of their GDP on defensive measures by 2024. Trump said in a tweet hours after he raised the issue during the NATO Summit in Brussels. "They're delinquent, as far as I'm concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them". Energy exports represent Russia's main source of revenue, and Trump argues that the pipeline undermines NATO's goal, as it's created to counter Russian aggression.

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Stoltenberg later said Trump had "very direct language" but "when it comes to the core message we actually all agree... we have to share the burden more fairly".

"You know, we're protecting Germany, we're protecting France", Trump said. "It's disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States", Trump said, adding that he is eager to change the situation. "This has been brought up by other presidents". "I think that two world wars and the Cold War taught us that we are stronger together than apart", he told the president, trying to calm tensions.

European Union figures suggest Russian Federation is responsible for between 50% and 75% of Germany's gas imports, but gas makes up less than 20% of Germany's energy mix for power production. I think he's right about the spending levels.

Trump told reporters during brief remarks at the end of the meeting that the two had a "very, very good relationship" and congratulated Merkel on her "tremendous success". "We look forward to the meeting you're going to have with President Putin".

Under fire for his warm embrace of Russia's Vladimir Putin, Trump on Wednesday turned a harsh spotlight on Germany's own ties to Russian Federation, alleging that a natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Angela Merkel's government "totally controlled" and "captive" to Russian Federation.

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