Trump says Germany ‘totally controlled’ by Russia in extraordinary tirade at start of Nato summit

Angela Merkel responds that: 'I've experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union and I'm very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany'

Kim Sengupta
Brussels
Wednesday 11 July 2018 13:41
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Donald Trump says Germany 'totally controlled' by Russia

Donald Trump was expected to arrive at Nato in full assault mode and he did not disappoint: berating Germany for being supposedly “totally controlled” by and becoming “a captive” of Russia, in his very first meeting.

There was also the familiar angry complaint about defence spending, one he has been using against European members of Nato, this time focusing on Germany.

The Kremlin captivity, according to the US president, came from Germany’s role in the transport of Russian gas to Western Europe. He appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will bring gas from Russia to Germany’s Baltic coast.

Angela Merkel, arriving later at the summit, declared that Germany will determine its own national policies, saying “I've experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union and I'm very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany and can thus say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions and that's very good."

Ms Merkel, the German chancellor, grew up in East Germany.

Some of Mr Trump’s assertions, unsurprisingly, were incorrect. He claimed that “Germany is getting 60 to 70 per cent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline” - in reality around 20 per cent of German energy use is from oil and gas imports from Russia.

Mr Trump moved into tirade mode within minutes of sitting down for a bilateral breakfast meeting with the Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “You tell me, is that appropriate? Germany is totally controlled by Russia... Giving billions and billions to Russia, Germany, as far as I am concerned, is totally controlled by Russia.”

The US president then seemed to think, erroneously, that German officials were in the room, pointing out that “Germany is a rich country” and demanding to know why America should “protect you against Russia” when commercial deals are taking place between the two states. “Explain that! It can’t be explained!”, he exclaimed.

Western leaders are by now quite used to the Donald’s way. Mr Stoltenberg’s facial expression through all this was not of surprise or shock, but one of mild distaste. He pointed out that Nato members have had their differences in the past, but have still managed to work successfully together. “Because we understand when we stand together, we are stronger”, he stressed.

Mr Trump was not having that. “How can you be stronger when a country is getting energy from the person you want to protect against? You are just making Russia richer,” he said before moving on to the lack of defence spending by fellow Nato states. "We're protecting Germany, we're protecting France, we're protecting all of these countries. And then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they're paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia ... I think that's very inappropriate,” he said.

The Secretary-General had pointed out that many Nato members were in the process of increasing their defence budget. But Mr Trump had already explained that as he arrived to meet him. It was “because of me they (Nato) have raised $40bn over the last year. So I think the Secretary-General likes Trump. He may be the only one, but that’s OK with me.”

Later, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen stated: “We have a lot of issues with Russia without any doubt...On the other hand, you should keep the communication line between countries or alliances and opponents without any question.”

Germany will not, it is expected, be Mr Trump’s only target at this summit. Afterwards he visits the UK before going on to another summit, with Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki. The US president has already said that Russia should rejoin the G7 group of countries from which it was expelled after the annexation of Crimea and its role in Ukraine’s civil war.

Back in the US, the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Mr Trump’s alleged links, including commercial ones, with the Kremlin continues.

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