In Brief

Nato summit: Donald Trump and Angela Merkel wage war of words

German Chancellor hits back after US President accuses her of being a prisoner of Russia

The Nato summit opened in Brussels yesterday with Donald Trump attacking German Chancellor Angela Merkel over military spending and her country’s relationship with Russia.

In what The Guardian describes as “an extraordinary tirade” – even by the US President’s standards – Trump claimed that a gas pipeline deal meant Germany was being held prisoner.

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting from 60% to 70% of their energy from Russia, and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that’s appropriate because I think it’s not and I think it’s a very bad thing for Nato,” he said during a breakfast meeting yesterday.

Trump also lambasted Nato members for failing to meet military spending targets and even questioned the point of the alliance.

He tweeted: “What good is Nato if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?”

Merkel hit back, pointing out that Germany is the second-largest provider of Nato troops, after the US.

She also said that her upbringing in Eastern Germany meant she could remember the time when some Germans really were under Russian control.

“I want to say that I have experience of when a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union,” the Chancellor told reporters. “I am very happy that today we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions.”

Trump’s remarks “created a strained summit, dashing the hopes of diplomats and some US officials for a meeting that would showcase transatlantic unity ahead of the US leader’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week”, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The row comes less than a week before Trump is due to hold his first summit with Putin in the Finnish capital Helsinki.

European Council President Donald Tusk accused Trump of criticising Europe on an “almost daily” basis. “Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many,” he tweeted.

However, at a later working dinner for leaders that was closed to reporters, Trump struck a more conciliatory tone, a European diplomat told the WSJ.

“It was much more consensual,” the diplomat said. “He was not rocking the boat.”

Nato leaders will today try to move beyond Trump’s demands for higher defence spending as the summit enters its final day, and focus on ending the long war in Afghanistan, Reuters reports.

“On day two, leaders will welcome non-Nato partners including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko […] as they seek to focus on policy rather than politics,” it says.

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