President Donald Trump branded Germany a “captive of Russia” for its support of a Baltic Sea gas pipeline deal this morning (July 11). The verbal attack comes just days before he meets Russian president Vladimir Putin.
According to Reuters, Trump also told NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg that it was “very inappropriate” that the US was paying for European defense while the continent’s richest country, Germany, supported gas deals with Russia. The pair was speaking in front of reporters at a breakfast meeting before today’s NATO summit in Brussels.
The comments come amid wide expectations of a turbulent summit—Trump has long criticized the 29-member alliance, calling it “obsolete,” and is extremely critical of countries that are failing to meet the target of 2% of their GDP as defense spending.
Though the insult will hardly engender warmth from German chancellor Angela Merkel, who Trump is due to meet later today, German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen seemed relatively unperturbed. Though she said that Germany did have “a lot of issues with Russia,” she noted that it was important to “keep the communication line between countries or alliances and opponents” open.
Trump is due to meet Putin on Monday in Helsinki.
Germany is extremely reliant on Russian gas, and the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea, which Germany approved in March, will only increase its dependence. The US has been lobbying EU countries to reject the pipeline for years, arguing that it is a threat to the European Union’s energy security.