President Trump came out swinging in Brussels after arriving on Air Force One for his second NATO summit. Speaking with journalists before a meeting with the NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg - and all caught strategically on video - Trump slammed Germany for expecting the US to foot the bill for Europe's security in the face of Russian aggression while Germany and others cut massive energy deals with Russian energy companies, per RT.
Germany is so dependent on Russia for energy, Trump said, that it's essentially being "held captive" by Vladimir Putin and his government, Trump said during his breakfast with Stoltenberg having himself been the object of withering critique for the past two years by the US liberal media that he himself is a Putin pupet.
"Germany is captive of Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia. They pay billions of dollars to Russia and we have to defend them against Russia," said Trump at a breakfast with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
Trump even tweeted a video of the exchange for public consumption:
Bilateral Breakfast with NATO Secretary General in Brussels, Belgium... pic.twitter.com/l0EP3lzhCM— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
As muni expert Cate Long commented after the exchange:
"President Trump called out Germany for expecting the US to pay for their defense against Russia while they cut a massive oil and natural gas deal with Russia. The simplicity and elegance of his argument cannot be overstated. The duplicity of the German govt is outrageous."
Merkel wasted no time to respond to this direct attack by Trump saying "I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. I am very happy that today we are united in freedom ... Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions."
Despite Merkel's best efforts to iron out the winkles, the bad blood between the US and Germany started flowing early.
Trump is , of course, correct: Germany like much of central Europe, is held hostage by Russian energy exports, a reality of life in Europe and what many believe was the initial cause for the proxy was in Syria which sought to push a Qatar gas pipeline across Syria and Turkey to reduce Europe's reliance on Russia, and is the reason why most Europeans have been pushing to ease sanctions against the Kremlin. Meanwhile, the US has been struggling to butt into the European energy market, with the Trump administration doing everything in its power to send more LNG exports Europe's way, benefiting US companies.
In an effort to lighten the tension (and also rib Trump for his complaints about NATO members not paying their fair share) following what was described as a "contentious" breakfast, Stoltenberg told reporters that he enjoyed"some nice fruit salad, paid for by the United States."
The pipeline has been a frequent target of attacks by Trump, who threatened to escalate the trade war against Germany several months ago if it supported the construction of the pipeline, which the Trump administration has claimed would grant Russia a quasi-monopoly over European energy markets.
With the completion of the pipeline, Russian LNG has become cheaper and more reliable than US energy exports, helping Russian energy firms muscle out their US rivals in the European market. Back in May, the Trump administration threatened sanctions against German companies who participated in the construction of the pipeline, while Trump reportedly warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the US could impose punitive trade measures against Germany in retaliation for its support for the pipeline. The pipelinewhich carries gas directly from Russia under the Baltic Sea.
Trump bashed Germany again for supporting the pipeline, calling it a "very sad" state of affairs, according to Bloomberg.
"It’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia," Trump said before meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday morning.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen responded to Trump's criticisms of the Nord Stream pipeline in an interview with the BBC in Brussels: "We can cope with it. We’ve heard him before and seen the tweets. We have an independent energy supply, we are an independent country, we are just diversifying."
Trump also reiterated his criticisms of NATO partners whom he has accused of shirking their financial obligations to the alliance.
"Many countries owe us," Trump said in Brussels, before attending the summit at NATO headquarters. "The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough...This has been going on for decades, for decades, it’s disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States."
Here, too, Trump is correct as the following map shows, although it is unclear if the US is truly losing from an arrangement where the US military-industrial complex benefits disproportionately from US domination of NATO, which in turn send MIC stocks to all time highs, making shareholders and management especially rich... largely at the expense of US taxpayers.
As Bloomberg pointed out, Trump's aggressive rhetoric suggested that the NATO summit will follow the same trajectory as the G-7 summit in Canada earlier this summer, where Trump's allies joined together to try and counter his criticisms.
"NATO is an an alliance of 29 nations and sometimes there are differences and different views and also some disagreements, and the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany is one issue where allies disagree," said Stoltenberg. "But the strength of NATO is despite these differences we have always been able to unite around our core task, to protect and defend each other, because we understand we are stronger together than apart."
However, at least one diplomat agreed with Trump's concerns about Nord Stream. Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said Trump has a point: "Some countries are too close" to Russia, he said on a panel at a parallel event to NATO, accusing Russia of using proceeds from the pipeline to fund its military.