BRUSSELS – Raised by his warm embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump shook the NATO summit on Wednesday by highlighting Germany's ties with Russia and openly questioning the value of the military alliance that has defined the US foreign policy for decades.
Trump stated that a joint venture of natural gas with Moscow has left Angela Merkel's government "fully controlled" and "Russian captive". So, at a stroke, he diverted attention from his ties with the Kremlin only a few days before coming face to face with Putin.
With a scorching language, the president questioned the need for the alliance that formed a bulwark against the Soviet aggression, tweeting after a day of controversial meetings: "What is the use of NATO if Germany is to pay Russia thousands of millions of dollars for gas and energy? "
German Chancellor Merkel responded immediately, not only denying Trump's statement but suggesting that her education in the United States did not allow her to take the world stage on Germany.
Based on his own past growing up in the Communist East Germany behind the Iron Curtain, he said:
"I have experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union, and I am very happy today that we are united in freedom like the Federal Republic of Germany and we can say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions, and that is very good. "
Trump demanded by public tweet that members of the Atlantic Treaty Organization North "must pay IMMEDIATELY 2% of GDP, not by 2025" for their military efforts. Then it shook the US allies UU Suggesting privately that member nations should spend 4 percent of their gross domestic product in the military, more than even the United States currently pays, according to NATO statistics.
It was the latest in Trump's demands and insults that critics fear will undermine a decades-old alliance launched to counter Soviet aggression after World War II. And days before Trump planned to sit with Putin in Finland to conclude what has become a controversial European trip.
Trump has spent weeks chiding members of the alliance for not increasing military spending, accusing Europe of taking advantage of outside the US. UU and even raising doubts about whether he would come to the defense of the members as necessary if they were ever attacked.
Trump's reprimand was accelerated during a pre-summit breakfast, when he traded his usual long-distance Twitter attacks for a face-to-face confrontation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
"We're supposed to protect it against Russia, but they're paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that's very inappropriate," Trump said, repeatedly describing Germany as "Russia's captive" because of the energy deal. He urged NATO to analyze the matter.
Trump's harsh words for Merkel, whose country has harbored tens of thousands of US troops that have been key to the stability of World War II in Europe for seven decades, hit the core of the alliance. West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a critical factor in the success of the alliance in confronting the Soviet Union until its collapse. Reunited with the East, Germany became NATO's largest European economy in 1990.
The President's vacancy was with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to the north-western Baltic coast, passing through countries of Eastern Europe like Poland and Ukraine and doubling the amount of gas that Russia can send directly to Germany. The United States and some other EU members oppose the vast underwater pipeline, warning that it could give Moscow greater influence over Western Europe. It is expected to be online by the end of 2019.
Germany concerned about the environment is trying to reduce its dependence on coal and is phasing out nuclear energy by 2022, so it hopes to use natural gas to partially fill the gap until the country's electricity grid can cope with the fluctuating levels provided by renewable energy.
Hours after breakfast, Merkel and Trump seemed to play well while they were along the summit. Trump told reporters that the two had a "very, very good relationship" and congratulated Merkel for her "tremendous success."
While Trump went after Germany for his links with Russia, he himself has been accused by critics of being too eager to improve relations with Moscow. He also ruled out the assessment of the US intelligence community that Russia tried to undermine Western democracy by meddling in the 2016 US presidential election to help it win.
Trump also issued new complaints about the "delinquent" defense spending of the allies and suggested at one point NATO allies commit to spending 4 percent of their GDP on defense, twice the target they have set by 2024.
"I have great confidence that they will spend more," he said.
However, a formal summit The statement issued by NATO leaders on Wednesday reaffirmed their "unwavering commitment" with the 2 percent promise set in 2014 and made no reference to any effort to rise.
Trump has repeatedly characterized the spending goal, misrepresenting it as a tariff that countries pay to NATO or the US. UU instead of his own military. NATO estimates that 15 members, or slightly more than half, will reach the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.
Back in the USA UU., Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement describing the "blatant insults and denigration of Trump." one of America's strongest allies, Germany, "like" a shame. "
" Your behavior this morning is another deeply disturbing signal that the president is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies " , wrote.  Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, also criticized Trump's rhetoric.
"I think everyone should get to 2 percent quickly, but the NATO alliance is very important for States. United and our citizens, and things that are said to try and create instability, all they do is strengthen Putin, "Corker said, describing concerns" about conciliatory things that could happen in Helsinki "when Trump sits down with the Russian president.
But Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, a staunch supporter of the president, said the problem affects the "heart of the NATO unit."
"The pipeline gets cheap Russian gas for to Germany while overlooking smaller Eastern European nations, allowing Russia to press them while maintaining Germany. harmless, "he tweeted, adding," No amount of grooming in Berlin will cover this selfish politics. "
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller in Wash ington, Matthew Lee in Brussels and Maria Danilova in Moscow contributed to this report.
Follow Colvin and Lemire on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj and https://twitter.com/JonLemire  President Donald Trump arrived on Wednesday at a NATO summit with claims that a natural gas agreement left Germany "totally controlled" and "captivates Russia" while launching new complaints about the "delinquent" defense spending of the allies during the opening of a hectic two-day meeting was expected.
Trump also suggested that NATO allies commit to spending 4% of their gross domestic product on defense, twice the current target of 2% by 2024.
The president, in an interc irritable with the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, who began his visit, disagreed with the United States that protect Germany when it makes deals with Russia.
"I have to say that I think it is very sad when Germany produces massive oil and gas treatment with Russia where we are supposed to protect ourselves against Russia," Trump said at a breakfast with Stoltenberg. "We're supposed to protect it against Russia, but they're paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that's very inappropriate."
Trump repeatedly described Germany as "Russia's captive" for the energy deal and urged NATO to investigate the problem.
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, stepped back firmly, insisting that Germany make its own decisions and build on its own record of growth in communist East Germany behind the Iron Curtain.
"I have experienced a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union and I am very happy today that we are united in freedom like the Federal Republic of Germany and we can say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions, and that It's very good, "he said. He said.
The president seemed to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring Russia's gas to the north-east coast of Germany's Baltic, bypassing Eastern European nations such as Poland and Ukraine and doubling the amount of gas that Russia can send directly to Germany. The United States and some other EU members oppose the vast underwater pipeline, warning that it could give Moscow greater influence over Western Europe. It is expected to be online by the end of 2019.
Germany concerned about the environment is trying to reduce its dependence on coal and is phasing out nuclear energy by 2022, so it hopes to use natural gas to partially fill the gap until the country's power grid can cope with the fluctuating levels provided by renewable energy. Alternatives, including EE supplies UU., They are more expensive.
In his round trip, Stoltenberg emphasized to Trump that the members of NATO have been able to work together despite their differences. "I think the two world wars and the Cold War taught us that we are stronger together than apart," he told the president, trying to calm tensions.
Trump's dramatic exchange with Stoltenberg set the tone for what was already expected to be a tense day of meetings with the leaders of the military alliance as Trump presses nervous NATO allies on their military spending before their meeting. next week with Putin.
"The United States is paying too much and other countries do not pay enough, especially some, so we're going to have a meeting about that," Trump said, describing the situation as "disproportionate and unfair to the taxpayers of the United States." .
"They will spend more," he predicted later. "I have great confidence that they will spend more."
And with that, he pushed the allies at the summit to double their commitment on defense spending.
"During the president's statements today at the NATO summit, he suggested that countries not only fulfill their commitment of 2 percent of their GDP in defense spending, but increase it to 4 percent," he said. the White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. He said that the president raised the same problem in NATO last year and that, "Trump wants our allies to share the burden more and fulfill their obligations already established."
However, a formal statement from the summit issued by NATO leaders on Wednesday reaffirmed their "unwavering commitment" with the 2 percent pledge set in 2014 and made no reference to any effort to reach 4 percent .
Trump's criticism was an unusual line of attack for a self-proclaimed president eager to improve relations with Vladimir Putin of Russia and dismissed the US intelligence community's assessment that Russia tried to undermine Western democracy by meddling in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win. Trump has always argued that improving relaxations with Russia would be good for both nations.
Back in the USA Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement describing Trump's "blatant insults and denigration of one of America's firmest allies, Germany," as "a shame."
"Your behavior this morning is another deeply disturbing signal that the president is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies," they wrote.
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch also opposed Trump and said: "I do not agree with that, the Germans would not agree with that, they are a very strong people."
But Sen. Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, a strong supporter of the president, said the problem of the pipeline affects the "heart of NATO's unity."
"The pipeline becomes cheap Russian gas to Germany without passing through smaller nations of Eastern Europe, which allows Russia to press them while Germany is harmless," he wrote on Twitter, adding: "No amount of grooming in Berlin will cover this selfish politics. "
Despite Trump's claims about Germany, Merkel was a strong advocate for the imposition and maintenance of sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014, arguing that it violated the principles of international order established after the Second World War. World. The president is also not the first leader to point out the impact of Nord Stream 2 in Europe, echoing complaints from Eastern European allies that they would eliminate transit countries such as Poland and Ukraine.
Trump and Merkel met on Wednesday on the sidelines of the summit and kept their kind comments during a photo opportunity with the press.
Trump told reporters that the two had a "very, very good relationship" and congratulated Merkel for her "great success." They asked if they had discussed the pipeline, said they had, but refused to give more details.
Merkel, for her part, called the two nations "good partners" and said "we want to continue cooperating in the future".
Trump then met with French President Emmanuel Macron, who said he did not agree with the evaluation of Trump's pipeline. But the two appeared on good terms, with Trump joking about the fact that Macron had been asked about it.
Trump has always pushed NATO members to reach their agreed-upon goal of 2 percent by 2024 and has accused those who do not freeloading outside the United States
He tweeted from the summit: " What is the use of NATO if Germany pays Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are its only 5 out of 29 countries that have fulfilled their commitment? The United States is paying for the protection of Europe and then they lose billions in Commerce, they must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not before 2025. "
NATO estimates that 15 members, or slightly more than half, will reach the benchmark for 2024 according to trends current
Brussels is the first leg of a European one-week tour that will include stops in London and Scotland, as well as a highly anticipated meeting next week with Putin.
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller in Washington and Maria Danilova in Moscow contributed to this report.
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