Trump sets off for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in combative mood on military spending

07_11_18_MerkelRelationship

"Germany is a captive of Russia", Trump said during a meeting Wednesday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, pointing to German reliance on Russian natural gas.

Allies were aware of Trump's grievances ahead of the summit, but he specifically rattled Germany ahead of his full day of meetings in Brussels when he called them out over the controversial $12 billion proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russian Federation and Germany and suggested it puts the entire historic alliance in question. They got rid of their coal plants, they got rid of their nuclear, they're getting so much of their oil and gas from Russian Federation.

Mr. Trump's concerns about the project - which would funnel gas through the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing Russia's traditional land routes through Ukraine and other Eastern European nations - are shared by a host of European leaders outside of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Here's why Trump is upset.

The NATO alliance consists of 29 countries from North America and Europe, including the USA and Germany, which was originally set up in 1949 to thwart Soviet aggression in Western Europe.

Trump has long complained that European NATO members do not pay enough for their own defence, accusing them of freeloading on America and singling out Germany for particular criticism.

Under President Trump, there is no longer a vacuum in global geopolitical leadership.

Merkel also noted that she grew up in Germany during a time when part of Germany "was controlled by the Soviet Union" and pointedly noted that Germany can now "form our own independent policies and can make independent decisions". "We are talking about trade, we have a very, very good relationship with the chancellor, we have a tremendous relationship with Germany", Trump said with Merkel sitting at his side.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

The summit is meant to be meeting with allies, however Trump began the trip by airing his grievances over trade with Europe loudly and clearly.

Indeed, the steady drumbeat of negative comments from Trump is beginning to overwhelm reassurances from the rest of the USA national security establishment, said James M. Goldgeier, a visiting senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Despite Trump's claims about Germany, Merkel served as a forceful advocate for imposing - and maintaining - sanctions on Russian Federation after it annexed Crimea in 2014, arguing that it violated the principles of the global order established after World War II. The U.S. does not even spend 4 percent of GDP on defense. The US' largest military hospital overseas is in Germany, and it uses bases in the country as "lily pads" to go back and forth from countries like Afghanistan. This time, allies could breathe a sigh of relief as Trump signed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit's Brussels Declaration on Transatlantic Security and Solidarity, reaffirming the shared goals of the organization Trump once called "obsolete".

And he added: "NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS".

"These countries have to step it up - not over a 10 year period, they have to step it up immediately", Trump said. Now it is time for those who say they are fellow members of the alliance that won the Cold War to make their voices heard and be counted again as true allies in deed, not just word.

Trump has taken an aggressive tone during the summit, questioning the value of an alliance that has defined decades of American foreign policy, torching an ally and proposing a massive increase in European defense spending. So I think the secretary-general likes Trump.

Brussels is the first leg of a weeklong European tour that will include stops in London and Scotland, as well as a highly anticipated meeting next week with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

"The best-case scenario is that it's just rhetoric", the European official said of Trump's comments about a U.S. willingness to maintain its commitment to Europe.

Trump has had a less than friendly relationship with Merkel since the start of his presidency. Trump made it clear he's exhausted of America shelling out more money on defense than its allies.

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