Trump Zings NATO, and EU Chief Zings Back

Jens Stoltenberg

Meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg over breakfast in the United States embassy in Brussels, Trump said Germany was "captive to Russia" and criticised its failure to raise defence spending.

The president appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would double the amount of gas Russian Federation can send directly to Germany, skirting transit countries such as Ukraine.

During his campaign, Trump called North Atlantic Treaty Organisation "obsolete" and suggested the USA might not come to the defence of members if they found themselves under attack - a shift that would represent a fundamental realignment of the modern world order.

"I speak with (Trump) fairly regularly and I look forward to seeing him again", he said.

Trump says that his meeting with Putin will be the easiest meeting of his European tour.

At the pre-summit breakfast meeting he launched straight back to his theme.

Mr Trump, in a message to Germany, asked why the United States should "protect you against Russia" when the two countries were making deals.

That would send the alliance into a tailspin, damaging security by opening the question of whether NATO's most powerful member is still willing to defend its allies if one were attacked.

He asked Stoltenberg to explain why Berlin was getting energy from Moscow, and asserted that Germany was "totally controlled" by and "captive to Russia" over a pipeline project.

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And he vowed not to be "taken advantage" of by the European Union, which he accuses of relying on the United States for defence while restricting USA imports into the bloc, the world's biggest market. "I think it's not".

Both countries will be well-served in the meantime by the British parliament's recent decision to ratify the deal, known as CETA, said Joseph Pickerill, a spokesman for International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen dismissed the president's claim.

The NATO chief was frank about the impact of Trump's criticism on the Western allies at a broader level and he referred to non-NATO issues such as trade, where Trump is angry over the USA trade deficit with the European Union.

Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis pointed out that all countries in Europe were using Russian gas. He said the United Kingdom was in "somewhat turmoil" and thinks meeting Vladimir Putin - her geopolitical enemy - will be the easiest part of his trip.

The hint of USA withdrawal from Europe, while unlikely, indeed seems to have made many countries hike their defense spending.

"So, we're going to have a meeting on that and the secretary general has worked very hard on that, he understands the problem and hopefully we can get it resolved. He may be the only one but that's OK with me", the president said moments before the public rebuke of Stoltenberg.

Commenting today on a newly signed joint EU-NATO declaration "to protect European citizens with all possible means available", Tusk said the details of the agreement include "improving the military mobility of troops and equipment, common preparedness for cyber and hybrid attacks, fighting terrorism and stopping migrant smugglers in the Mediterranean". "We're not going to put up with it, we can't put up with it and it's inappropriate".

The 1.5 percent level forecast for NATO's European members in 2018 compares to 1.46 percent past year, 1.44 percent in 2016 and 1.42 percent in 2015.

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