President Donald Trump ramped up pressure on NATO at a summit in Brussels on Wednesday, targeting Germany and other countries for failing to provide enough support to the military alliance despite benefiting from its protections.
Speaking at the NATO summit in Belgium, Trump said it’s unfair to U.S. taxpayers for Germany to accept gas and oil from Russia while reaping the benefits NATO offers in protecting Europe from Russia, according to NBC News.
“Germany is a captive of Russia,” he said, arguing that Germany pays “billions and billions of dollars” to Russia for energy.
Trump went on to bristle against U.S. spending on NATO, asking Germany why the U.S. should “protect you against Russia” considering that “Germany is a rich country” that has significant trade deals with Russia.
“You tell me, is that appropriate?” he said, explaining that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia.”
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel asserted that Germany is independent from Russia and that her country contributes its fair share to mutual defense efforts enacted by NATO. She added that she’s prepared to have “controversial” talks with world leaders about the issue.
Trump also slammed other European nations for failure to equally carry the burden of defense, raising tensions even more as many world leaders fear division could give Russian President Vladimir Putin more power.
Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin in Helsinki on Monday.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen pushed back on Trump’s claims and defended Germany’s connection to Russia.
“We have a lot of issues with Russia, without any doubt, but on the other hand you should keep a communication line between countries or alliances and opponents without any question,” she said. “So I’m curious to listen in-depth in the meeting what the American president is meaning by that.”
During a breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg before the summit opening, Trump pushed back on Stoltenberg’s attempt to emphasize cooperation and alliances.
“We have all been able to unite around our core values, that we are all stronger together than apart,” Stoltenberg said.
“How can you be stronger when a country is getting energy from the person you want to protect against?” Trump asked, adding that “you are just making Russia richer.”
Trump seemed to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would double the amount of oil and gas Germany can buy from Russia.
Trump’s combative tone at the NATO summit has been criticized by some as threatening to grant Putin more leverage over European leaders as tensions rise between U.S. allies.