BRUSSELS: US President Donald Trump traded barbs with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a tense NATO summit Wednesday after he accused Berlin of being “captive” to Russia and demanded it immediately step up defence spending, reports AFP.
The two-day meet in Brussels is 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.Merkel shot back that Germany had the right to make its own policy choices, setting up an explosive one-on-one meeting with Trump later in the afternoon.
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, 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 HQ.
“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.”