At a breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the NATO summit, President Donald Trump stated that key US ally Germany is beholden to Russia because of it’s dependence on Russian energy, CNN reports.
“Germany is a captive of Russia,” Trump said at a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, his first since arriving in the Belgian capital. “It’s very inappropriate.”
Trump went on to complain that the United States is expected to “defend them against Russia,” despite Germany making “billions of dollars” in energy payments to Moscow.
“I think it’s something that NATO has to look at,” Trump said. “Germany is totally controlled by Russia.”
The American president also noted that numerous NATO countries have pipeline deals with Russia and suggested NATO needs to look at that.
With Chief of Staff John Kelly, NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis looking on, Stoltenberg pushed back against the comments, saying, “The strength of NATO is that despite these differences, we have always been able to unite around our core task to protect and defend each other because we understand that we are stronger together than apart.”
Trump replied, “How can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the person you want protection against or from the group that you want protection against?”
“Because we understand that when we stand together also in dealing with Russia, we are stronger,” Stoltenberg told Trump.
CNN reports that Trump doubled down on his comments.
Trump rejected Stoltenberg’s argument, saying Germany is “making Russia richer” and again repeating his claim that Germany “is captive to Russia,” before White House officials intervened to usher reporters out of the room.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded to Trump’s comments by saying she grew up in East Germany and experienced Soviet occupation, stating “it is good that we are independent today”.
On Tuesday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen preemptively pointed out to CNN that Angela Merkel has been leading efforts to curb Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and explained that Germany has “a very diverse mix of energy supplies.” Since May, the Trump administration has been pressuring Germany to stop multimillion the Nord Stream 2 pipeline deal with Russia in exchange for a US trade deal.
President Trump stated that Germany “will ultimately have almost 70% of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas”. CNN reports that Germany’s natural gas imports are increasingly from Russia, but include other sources as well.
Germany imports roughly 94% of its natural gas. In 2015, 35% of imported gas came from Russia, while 34% was sourced from Norway and 29% from the Netherlands. But German imports of Russian gas have risen in recent years, according to experts.
Trump’s comments come at a time when he has upped his attacks on NATO and demanded that member nations increase their defense spending commitments from 2% to 4%. They also come amid ongoing tension between the member nations after the antagonistic G7 summit in June and concerns about what will result from President Trump meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16.
The AP reports that Paul Ryan defended NATO but would not criticize the President while he is overseas.
House Speaker Paul Ryan is defending NATO as “indispensable” after President Donald Trump roiled a gathering of the alliance by sharply criticizing Germany.
The Wisconsin Republican says Trump is right to push NATO members to meet their obligations. But he adds that the military alliance is “as important today as it ever has been.”
Trump lashed out at German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a summit in Brussels. He claims that Germany is “totally controlled” by and “captive to Russia” because of an oil and gas pipeline.
Ryan was asked if he agreed with Trump about that, and said he believes lawmakers should not criticize the president when he is overseas.
ABC reports Senator Orrin Hatch responded, as well.
Sen. Orrin Hatch says he "doesn't agree with" Pres. Trump's accusation that Germany is "totally controlled" by Russia.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 11, 2018
Axios reports that various Democrats have made statements pushing back against Trump’s incorrect characterization of Germany’s relationship with Russia. Former Secretary of State John Kerry and Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer have made statements.
Senators Tim Kane and Ted Lieu tweeted their responses.
Projecting much? https://t.co/sRNsczSYQG
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) July 11, 2018
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) July 11, 2018
Why It Matters
President Trump displays an appalling lack of understanding of NATO and his ignorance threatens to restructure the world as we know it. Doing so will not make America great and it will not make us safer.
Furthermore, his ploy to make Germany a whipping boy by accusing them of being a captive of Russia is obvious. After all, if NATO members are willing to buy energy from Russia, is Russia really that bad? Why is NATO even necessary, if the same countries who claim to need protection from Russia are dependent on Russia for their energy needs?
By sowing division and doubt among nations who have allied to fight Soviet aggression in Europe, he emboldens Russia and makes a captive of himself to the Kremlin.
The one beneficiary of a weakened NATO is the former KBG agent turned Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The question is, why is the President of the United States trying to provide the gift of a fractured alliance to a country that the US intelligence community and the Senate Intelligence committee unanimously state maliciously interfered in our electoral process, that invaded and annexed a neighboring country and remains unrepentant, that shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, and that recently used Novichok, a Russian nerve agent, on the civilian population of a small town in rural England, sending several people to the hospital and killing Dawn Sturgess, an innocent bystander?