U.S. President Donald Trump accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia on Wednesday as Western leaders gathered in Brussels for a NATO summit where Trump wants Europeans to pay up more for their own defence.
In a startling public outburst, Trump told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that Germany was wrong to support a new $11-billion Baltic Sea pipeline to import Russian gas while being slow to meet targets for contributing to NATO defence spending that was intended to protect Europe from 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 in the presence of reporters at a pre-summit meeting at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Belgium.
His comments appeared to substantially overstate German reliance on Russian energy and to imply the German government was funding the pipeline, which is a commercial venture.
With tensions in the Western defence alliance already running high over Trump’s demands for more contributions to ease the burden on U.S. taxpayers, and a nationalistic stance that has seen trade disputes threaten economic growth in Europe, the latest remarks will fuel concerns among allies over the U.S. role in keeping the peace that has reigned since World War Two.