Trump and Merkel are headed for a one-on-one showdown after Trump said Germany was Russia's puppet

  • President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appear headed for a one-on-one confrontation on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels.
  • The two world leaders are expected to meet soon. Trump reportedly plans to bring up his contention that Russia controls Germany with its energy dominance.
  • Merkel has already fired back at Trump, saying that she lived in Germany under Soviet control and the government today is different and that Germany is a solid US and NATO ally.
  • But Merkel has a difficult political situation at home, and Germany has not yet met some of its NATO commitments.

President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appear headed for a one-on-one confrontation on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels after Trump slammed Germany as being controlled by Russia.

Trump and Merkel are expected to have a "pull aside" meeting in which Trump will bring up his contention that Russia, through its supply of oil and gas to Germany, controls the country's politics, The New York Times' White House correspondent Julia Davis reported on Wednesday.

"Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60-70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline," Trump said at a working breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"You tell me if that's appropriate, because I think it's not, and I think it's a very bad thing for NATO, and I don't think it should have happened," Trump said. "And I think we have to talk to Germany about it."

A Reuters review of Germany's official data shows that 35.3% of German imports of oil and gas come from Russia, but the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline project is expected to increase such energy trade.

Trump went on to bash Germany's defense spending, which stands at 1.24% of its gross domestic product.

"I think it's very unfair to our country," Trump said of Germany's defense spending. "These countries have to step it up not over a 10-year period — have to step it up immediately. Germany is a rich country. They talk about [how] they're going to increase it a tiny bit by 2030. Well, they could increase it immediately."

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President Trump attends 2018 NATO summit
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President Trump attends 2018 NATO summit
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive aboard Air Force One ahead of the NATO Summit, at Brussels Military Airport in Melsbroek, Belgium July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) at the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) are reflected in a mirror as they attend at a breakfast meeting with the NATO Secretary General and staff at the US chief of mission's residence in Brussels on July 11, 2018, ahead of a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (C) arrives to attend the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit, in Brussels, on July 11, 2018. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP) (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (C) shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as he arrives to attend the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit, in Brussels, on July 11, 2018. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during his official arrival at the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman
U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg before a bilateral breakfast ahead of the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for a welcoming ceremony by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of a NATO summit at the Alliance?s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Paul Hanna
U.S. President Donald Trump is welcomed by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of a NATO summit at the Alliance?s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Paul Hanna
U.S. President Donald Trump is welcomed by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of a NATO summit at the Alliance?s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
France's President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump are seen at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with French President Emmanuel Macron during the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May talk as NATO leaders pose for a family photo at the start of the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman
France's President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. President Donald Trump and Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg are seen at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via REUTERS
France's President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan are seen at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via REUTERS
Heads of governments of member countries of NATO at the opening ceremony of NATO summit 2018 in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on July 11, 2018. (Photo by Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JULY 11: Heads of state and government, including (from L to R, first row) Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May pose for the family photo during the opening ceremony at the 2018 NATO Summit at NATO headquarters on July 11, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. Leaders from NATO member and partner states are meeting for a two-day summit, which is being overshadowed by strong demands by U.S. President Trump for most NATO member countries to pay more towards funding the alliance. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
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Just hours after Trump's comments, Merkel fired back, saying she lived in East Germany under Soviet control, and that things are different now.

"I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany."

Merkel also defended Germany's role in NATO, and pointed out that German soldiers are still fighting for US interests in Afghanistan after the US invoked NATO's mutual defense clause following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"Germany is the second-largest provider of troops, the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement toward Afghanistan. In that we also defend the interests of the United States," she said.

Trump found Merkel's weak spot, and he's hammering it

Merkel faces serious difficulties in meeting her defense spending commitments to NATO. It's an unpopular policy domestically as she struggles to stay atop a shaky coalition government.

Additionally, Germany's military is in a poor state, and its own defense minister has criticized a lack of readiness and defense spending. In May, German news outlet Der Spiegel reported that only four of Germany's 128 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets were ready to fly combat missions.

While the US has moved to increase troop presence in Germany and Eastern Europe in light of a newly aggressive Russia, Merkel's government has sought to increase some energy purchases from Russia, the very force NATO seeks to defend against.

But as Mark D. Simakovsky, an Atlantic Council expert and former Europe/NATO chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, told Business Insider, Trump is unpopular in Europe, and that could make upping defense spending even harder for Merkel.

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Thousands protest Trump in Belgium ahead of NATO summit
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Thousands protest Trump in Belgium ahead of NATO summit
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
A participant holds the portrait of U.S. President Donald Trump as protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
A mock figurine depicting U.S. President Donald Trump is seen as protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal TEMPLATE OUT
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. The banner reads: "No to NATO. No to War". REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal TEMPLATE OUT
Two mock figurines depicting U.S. President Donald Trump and Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel are seen as protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. The writing on the placard reads, 'NATO, we don't want it'. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Protesters take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
A demonstrator holds a placard as protesters prepare to take part in a march against the NATO leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal
Protestors carry placards as they take part in a rally in Brussels on July 7, 2018, against the forthcoming NATO summit and scheduled visit of US President Donald Trump on July 11 and 12. (Photo by NICOLAS MAETERLINCK / BELGA / AFP) / Belgium OUT (Photo credit should read NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/AFP/Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
July 7th, Brussels. President Donald Trump will travel to Brussels to attend a NATO meeting scheduled for July 11-12, where it's going to be on the table more military expenditure by all NATO countries, including Belgium. This Saturday thousands of people gathering in Brussels to protest organized by the Belgium platform 'Trump not welcome here'. According to this platform, 'we don't want to take part in this military bid at the expense of social protection, tackling climate change, fighting poverty, a humane refugee policy and a diverse and inclusive society without racism, sexism, homo, and transphobia'. (Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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