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Posted at: Jul 12, 2018, 12:31 AM; last updated: Jul 12, 2018, 12:31 AM (IST)

Trump, Merkel clash at NATO summit

US Prez accuses Germany of being ‘captive’ to Russia, demands hike in defence spending
Trump, Merkel clash at NATO summit
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels. AFP

Brussels, July 11

US President Donald Trump traded barbs with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a tense NATO summit today after he accused Berlin of being “captive” to Russia and demanded it immediately step up defence spending.

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 defending the continent.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, shot back that she knew what it meant to be under Kremlin domination and Germany had the right to make its own policy choices.

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 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.” 

The pair later met for a one-on-one meeting and while Trump insisted they had a “very very good relationship”, their frosty body language suggested otherwise. Merkel said she welcomed the chance to have an “exchange of views” with Trump.

Trump has long complained that European NATO members do not pay enough for their own defence, singling out Germany for particular criticism. NATO allies agreed at a summit in Wales in 2014 to move towards spending two percent of GDP on defence by 2024. But Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, spends just 1.24%, compared with 3.5% for the US.

“These countries have to step it up-not over a 10 year period, they have to step it up immediately,” Trump said. — AFP

Berlin fires back

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany makes “independent decisions”, firing back at US President Donald Trump after he accused Berlin of being a “captive” of Russia
  • “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” 
  • Merkel also addressed repeated criticism from Trump over Germany’s military spending, which is below the target level agreed by NATO members

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