Trump blasts allies, says Germany is 'a captive of Russia' in testy start to NATO summit

President Donald Trump targeted Germany on Wednesday in reiterating his demand that NATO countries step up their defense spending so that they shoulder a greater share of the burden in protecting Europe from Russia.

Trump said it is not fair to American taxpayers that Germany buys oil and gas from Russia while enjoying the umbrella of defense provided by U.S. dollars. "Germany is a captive of Russia," he said, pointing out that the country pays "billions and billions of dollars" to a Russia for energy. Trump said he believed that was "inappropriate", adding: "Germany is a rich country."

Even before the pomp-filled welcoming ceremony of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting here, Trump made clear in a brief exchange with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that he has no intention of easing pressure on alliance nations just because Europe is nervous that tensions could empower Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom Trump is scheduled to meet Monday in Helsinki.

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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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Stoltenberg tried to temper what Trump was saying. "We have all been able to unite around our core values, that we are all stronger together than apart," he said.Trump pushed back."

How can you be stronger when a country is getting energy from the person you want to protect against?" the president asked. "Because we understand when we stand together we are stronger," Stoltenberg explained. Trump replied: "No, you are just making Russia richer."

Earlier, Trump said that he had "great confidence" in Stoltenberg, and gave him credit for working to deal with the "unfair burden" he said was being footed by the U.S. The line of argument is nothing new for Trump; it's been his most consistent criticism of traditional American allies and one that he made both at a campaign rally in Montana last week and in Washington just before he departed for a weeklong trip to Europe.

But the message may land a differently — a little more directly — now that he is in Brussels and meeting face-to-face with the leaders of NATO nations. His ambassador to NATO, former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, said last week that the goal of the summit is to project unity. But Trump's demands threaten that outcome.

 

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