Gregory Korte,- USA TODAY
BRUSSELS — President Donald Trump slammed European allies at a summit of NATO leaders on Wednesday, singling out the biggest of them for economic ties to Russia while skimping on defense.
“Germany, as far I’m concerned, is captive to Russia,” Trump said.
The source of Trump’s ire: German support for a pipeline that would bring Russian natural gas through the Baltic Sea to central Europe — even as it spends just 1.24 percent toward the collective defense of NATO allies.
“I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia … we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump said.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she didn’t understand Trump’s comments. “We have a lot of issues with Russia without any doubt,” she said.
Trump’s broadside came in a breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg early Wednesday, setting a combative tone for the two-day summit of the alliance in Brussels. The harsh rhetoric suggested that Trump had no intention of patching up relationships bruised by a contentious Group of Seven summit in Canada last month.
Trump has linked defense and trade issues throughout his presidency, using national security powers to impose tariffs against close allies like Canada and trade deficits as an argument for cutting U.S. defense aid to Europe.
Trump’s criticism of German ties to Russia comes five days before he’ll meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki for their first stand-alone summit since Trump became president.