President Trump Hammering NATO Allies Right ‘Off the Bat’
In a very forceful start to his NATO visit, US President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that a pipeline project has made Germany “totally controlled” by and “captive to Russia” and blasted NATO allies’ defense spending, opening what is expected to be a Summit with a list of open grievances involving the Key American allies.
Right Off the Bat, Trump, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, took issue with the US protecting Germany when Germany is making deals with Russia.
“I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive Oil and Gas deal with Russia where we are supposed to be guarding against Russia,” President Trump said during a breakfast with SG Stoltenberg, his 1st event since arriving in Brussels. “We’re supposed to protect you against Russia but Germany is paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very inappropriate.”
The President referred to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring Nat Gas from Russia to Germany’s northeastern Baltic coast, bypassing Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine and 2X’ing the amount of Nat Gas Russia can send directly to Germany. The vast undersea pipeline is opposed by the US and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe.
President Trump said that, “Germany, as far as I am concerned, is captive to Russia” and urged NATO to look into the issue.
President Trump, who has been accused of being too cozy with President Putin will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the day.
SG Stoltenberg stressed that NATO members have been able to work together despite their differences.
The forceful exchange set the tone for what is expected to be a tense day of meetings with leaders of the military alliance.
President Trump is expected to continue hammering jittery NATO allies about their military spending during the Summit meeting, which comes on fraying relations between the President and the United States’ closest traditional allies.
“The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough, especially some. So we are going to have a meeting on that,” President Trump said a he took command of the breakfast, describing the situation as “disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States and we are going to make it fair.”
“They will spend more, I have great confidence they’ll be spending more.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that President Trump would meet later Wednesday with Angela Merkel, as well as with French President Emmanuel Macron.
President Trump has been pushing NATO members to reach their agreed-to target of spending 2% of their GDP on national defense by Y 2024 and has accused those who do not of freeloading on the US.
“Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2% (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made,” he Tweeted Tuesday while en route to Europe, asking: “Will they reimburse the U.S.?”
NATO estimates that 15 members will meet the benchmark by Y 2024 based on current trends.
During his campaign, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and suggested the U.S. might not come to the defense of members if they found themselves under attack. He called Brussels a “hell hole” and “a mess.”
President Trump since taking office has continued to focus on the issue, even as many NATO members have agreed to up their spending.
SG Stoltenberg credits President Trump for spurring NATO nations to spend more on defense, noting that the Europeans and Canada are projected to spend around $266-B more by Y 2024.
“We all agree that we have to do more,” he said, describing last year as marking the biggest increase in defense spending across Europe and Canada in a generation.
President Trump interjected, asking SG Stoltenberg why he thought that had happened.
“It’s also because of your leadership, because your clear message,” SG Stoltenberg responded.
Brussels is the 1st stop of a weeklong European tour that will include stops in London and Scotland, as well as a meeting next week with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
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