“They pay billions of dollars to Russia and we have to defend them against Russia.”
President Donald Trump questioned Germany’s growing dependency on Russian energy supplies and described Berlin as a “captive” of Russia. “They pay billions of dollars to Russia and we have to defend them against Russia,” President Trump said. He also criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel’s continued refusal to spend enough on Europe’s security.
The remarks were made today during a meeting with the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg. Trump is in Brussels to attend the two-day NATO summit.
“Opening salvo at the NATO Summit: Trump attacks Merkel government over its gas deal with Putin,” reported the German newspaper Bild Zeutung. “Given this prelude, there is lot be discussed at the upcoming bilateral meeting between Trump and Merkel on Wednesday afternoon.”
“The summit is going to get uncomfortable for Merkel,” predicted the German daily Die Welt, while reporting Trump’s comments. The newspaper added:
Most of all, Chancellor Angela Merkel must brace herself for sharp and direct criticism. Despite significant rise in the defense spending in recent years, Trump regards German spending far too low. According to comparative figures issued by NATO, the United States spends 13-times more money for [NATO] defense than Germany. (…)
Germany has raised the [defense] spending from 1.18 percent in 2014 to 1.24 percent. In the case of the US that figure is at 3.6 percent and covers two-thirds of the NATO budget. [Translation by the author]
The German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported Trump’s comments and elaborated the details of the Russo-German gas pipeline:
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday lashed out at Germany over a gas pipeline deal with Russia, as NATO countries prepared to meet in Brussels for one of the most challenging summits in years.
“Germany is captive of Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump said, referring to Berlin’s Nord Stream 2 deal with Moscow. “They pay billions of dollars to Russia and we have to defend them against Russia.”
Berlin hopes the 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) Baltic Sea pipeline will provide direct delivery of more than 55 billion cubic meters (2 trillion cubic feet) of Russian natural gas starting in late 2019.
Germany’s state-run broadcaster Deutschlandfunk accused Trump of “driving a wedge between the allies.”
The leading German weekly Der Spiegel reported the comments with the headline “Sustained Fire: Trump versus Germany.” “Right at the onset of the NATO summit, U.S. President Trump makes it clear what he wants to achieve during his trip to Europe: attack Merkel without respite,” the weekly added.
The remarks made by Trump in Brussels are consistent with his long-held position on NATO. Before flying to Europe for the summit, he urged the NATO partners to contribute more to their defense spending on Twitter:
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. Will they reimburse the U.S.?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2018
In case of Germany’s refusal to shoulder its security burden, Trump may consider ways to lower the US spending towards Berlin’s defense. According to the media reports published last week, the US Department of Defense is evaluating the cost of maintaining troops in Germany. Reports suggested that the US may look at shifting “some or all 35,000 US troops to the US or Poland.”
Many in Merkel’s coalition government are opposed to higher defense spending and would instead like to divert those resources to welfare programs, refugee welfare, or have it earmarked to create a “European Army.” Her junior coalition partner SPD rejects the NATO-mandated increase in the defense budget to reach the 2 percent of GDP as “completely unnecessary and unrealistic.”
Trump, however, is right when he points out the German and European hypocrisy on defense spending. While it may be a laudable aim to bolster German welfare state, the Merkel government cannot expect the US taxpayers to cough up money for its security. If Germany can afford to spend tens of billions of dollars each year on its open doors policy for migrants, it can certainly foot its own defense bills.
[Cover image via YouTube]
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