US President Donald Trump held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday, hours after he fiercely criticised German policy on defence spending and gas imports from Russia.
The tone of their remarks when they jointly addressed reporters afterwards appeared businesslike, after Trump had said Germany’s reliance on Russian energy left it “in the control” of Moscow and Merkel later referred to her youth in Soviet-run East Germany to insist Berlin was now fully sovereign.
“We’re having a great meeting. We’re discussing military expenditure … talking about trade,” Trump told reporters who were allowed in to the meeting room.
“We have a very, very good relationship with the chancellor. We have a tremendous relationship with Germany,” he added, saying he had raised his concerns about a new gas pipeline planned from Russia to Germany.
‘A captive of Russia’
The two-day meet in Brussels has been shaping up as the alliance’s most difficult in years, with Europe and the US engaged in a bitter trade spat and Trump demanding that NATO allies “reimburse” Washington for the cost of defending the continent.
European alliance members were braced for criticism from Trump on defence spending, but his blistering attack on Germany at a breakfast meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg took the summit by surprise.
“Germany is a captive of Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump said at the meeting early Wednesday, taking particular aim at the proposed Nord Stream II gas pipeline, which he has previously criticised.
“Everybody’s talking about it all over the world, they’re saying we’re paying you billions of dollars to protect you but you’re paying billions of dollars to Russia.”
Merkel, who grew up in Soviet-dominated East Germany, ramped up the febrile atmosphere of the summit with a sharp reply on arriving at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“I myself have also experienced a part of Germany being controlled by the Soviet Union,” she said.
“I am very glad that we are united today in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany and that we can therefore also make our own independent policies and make our own independent decisions.”
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)