President Donald Trump referred to Germany as a “captive of Russia” during the NATO summit in Brussels. The president also requested from NATO allies to double up defense spending as part of their commitment to the military alliance. Trump has always criticized NATO countries that have failed to hit the target defense spending of 2% of GDP. But on Wednesday during the two-day NATO summit, the president once again called for more spending moving forward.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed the president’s request during a briefing and said that Trump doesn’t just want the NATO countries to meet their 2% of GDP defense spending target but to also increase that amount even more to 4%. According to Sanders, the president wants all NATO countries to share the defense burden that comes with the alliance.
However, Trump’s remark towards Germany before the summit remained the center of attention. Trump said that it wasn’t fair for US taxpayers to see Germany buying oil and gas from Russia while getting the umbrella protection from NATO. In fact, the president called Germany as a “captive of Russia” in reference to what he called “billions of dollars” paid to Russia on energy. The president was also quick to observe that Germany is indeed a rich nation and questioned why the US should continue to protect it against Russia.
German leader Angela Merkel released some brief remarks outside the NATO conference where she asserted that Germany remains independent from Russia. Merkel said that her country has contributed to the mutual defense of NATO countries. As if to fire a short towards Trump, Merkel also made it clear that she’s ready for “controversial” conversations.
Merkel was raised in East Germany behind the Iron Curtain. She said that Germany’s unification was the clearest indication that the country has disentangled itself from the yoke of Moscow.
Trump has maintained that European nations have taken advantage of the US for far too long. The president has picked fights with key allies in the region when it comes to trade, and now it looks like he’s adding fuel to the fire with his criticism of defense spending among NATO countries.
Tensions between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in particular have in been high but other European allies have felt the pinch too. There are fears that Trump’s rhetoric could embolden Russia’s president Vladimir Putin to make moves in Europe. Trump is expected to meet Putin in Helsinki next week.
Trump also met privately with Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the NATO summit. The president described the meeting as “great” adding that he has a “very, very good relationship” with Merkel. The German Chancellor also gave the impression that the meeting went on fine saying that trade and migration was discussed. Trump later had a similar meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron. The NATO summit was yet another diplomatic test for Trump and many analysts believe that it wasn’t as successful as it should have been. Many think that the US is isolating itself from key allies with no end in sight.