- Reinhard Krause/Reuters
- President Donald Trump on Wednesday claimed to have a “very, very good relationship” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel just hours after causing an uproar at the NATO summit in Brussels when he said Germany was “controlled” by Russia.
- Merkel had offered a sternly worded response to Trump’s remarks.
- Trump is being broadly criticized for his demeanor at the summit thus far and for his sustained criticism of NATO in relation to its members’ defense spending.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday claimed to have a “very, very good” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel just hours after causing an uproar at the NATO summit in Brussels when he said Germany was “controlled” by Russia.
“We had a great meeting discussing military expenditure,” Trump said in front of TV cameras. “We’re talking about trade. We have a very, very good relationship with the chancellor. We have a tremendous relationship with Germany.”
Directly addressing Merkel, who was sitting next to him, Trump added, “You’ve had tremendous success, and I congratulate you.”
Trump praises Merkel, Germany: "We had a great meeting discussing military expenditure. We're talking about trade. We have a very, very good relationship with the chancellor. We have a tremendous relationship with Germany. You've had tremendous success and I congratulate you." pic.twitter.com/NZpDb68cTN
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) July 11, 2018
But as leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization met earlier in the day, Trump took a much different tone on the subject of Germany.
“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 from Russia,” Trump told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a working breakfast that marked the beginning of the summit.
“Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” Trump added. “Because they’re getting between 60 to 70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.”
“I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union,” Merkel told reporters.
“I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merkel added. “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.”
Trump is being broadly criticized for his demeanor at the summit thus far as well as for his sustained criticism of NATO in relation to how the military alliance is funded. The president has balked at the amount other alliance members spend on defense relative to the US.
Nicholas Burns, a former US ambassador to NATO, on Wednesday accused Trump of “diplomatic malpractice” in this regard, adding, “It’s just infuriating to watch this happen.”
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) July 11, 2018
“You cannot imagine any American president all the way back 75 years deciding to become the critic-in-chief of NATO,” Burns said, going on to call out Trump’s posture toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I mean, it’s Orwellian. He’s making our friends out to be our enemies and treating our enemies, like Putin, as our friends, and he’s misrepresenting the facts.”