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July 12, 2018

Trump calls Germany ‘captive of Russia’ at Nato summit


July 12, 2018

BRUSSELS: US President Donald Trump has launched an extraordinary tirade against Germany for its support for one of Europe’s most contentious energy developments, calling the country “captive of Russians.”Speaking in Brussels, Belgium, on the first leg of his European trip on Wednesday, the US president said the relationship between Germany and Russia is “inappropriate.”

He said a flurry of oil and gas deals had given Moscow far too much influence over Europe’s largest economy. Trump particularly singled out the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project worth $11 billion which directly connects Germany with Russia.

Critics assert that the pipeline, which is to be laid under the Baltic Sea, will increase the continent’s dependence on Russian gas. Also, a number of other EU states have also expressed national security concerns.

Nevertheless, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has previously said Berlin would support the project and insisted it is a private commercial venture. “Germany is totally controlled by Russia … They will be getting between 60 and 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that is appropriate because I think it’s not,” Trump said, before slamming Berlin’s failure to dramatically increase defense spending.

Trump was speaking at a press conference in front of Nato representatives ahead of a two-day summit. The remarks come against the backdrop of increasing tensions between the EU and the US over issues like trade policy and military spending.

Trump has angered the Europeans by imposing tariffs on certain imports from EU countries, a move Europeans have retaliated. Trump has also criticized Europeans for their failure to meet targets for spending on Nato.

“I think it is a very bad thing for Nato and I don’t think it should have happened and I think we have to talk to Germany about it. On top of that, Germany is just paying a little bit over 1 percent (on defense) … And I think that is inappropriate also,” Trump said at the press conference.

“I think it is unfair,” Trump said. “We can’t put up with it.” European officials have expressed hopes that Nato members can bridge their differences but EU President Donald Tusk launched his own salvo against Trump.

"Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many," Tusk said, before reminding Trump that European troops had come to America’s aid following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

"Please remember this tomorrow when we meet at the Nato summit, but above all when you meet President Putin in Helsinki. It is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem," he said.

Trump will meet the Russian leader in the Finnish capital on July 16 for their first summit amid an ongoing investigation in the US into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia. To the embarrassment of Downing Street on Tuesday, he said that Britain was a country in "turmoil" and that "frankly, Putin may be the easiest" part of his European itinerary, with his arrival in the UK tomorrow following the Nato summit.

European diplomats feared a repeat of the G7, when Trump clashed with his Western allies, withdrawing from a joint statement and calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "dishonest and weak" before meeting North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un at a summit afterwards and praising him as "very talented".

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