Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

Trump, NATO head Stoltenberg have testy exchange at summit

Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump review French tanks during the Bastille Day military parade in Paris on July 14 2017 Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump review French tanks during the Bastille Day military parade in Paris on July 14 2017 Credit JOEL SAGET AFP
Patty Aguilar | 11 July, 2018, 15:23

President Donald Trump branded Germany a "captive of Russia" for its support of a Baltic Sea gas pipeline deal this morning (July 11).

"We're protecting Germany, we're protecting France, we're protecting all of these countries".

Trump said that past presidents did not confront America's allies because they did not want to meddle in their affairs or they were blind to the problem. Today Europeans spend on defense many times more than Russian Federation, and as much as China.

European Council President Donald Tusk set the scene by warning Mr. Trump that he is losing friends fast.

What is the defence spending row about?

"We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that's being paid to the country we're supposed to be protecting you against", Trump said, referring to European purchases of Russian natural gas. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.

Trump swipes at NATO spending ahead of summit Pompeo offers support for Taliban peace talks during surprise Afghan visit Trump: China may be exerting "negative pressure" on North Korea MORE defended the current US strategy and pledged the administration's continued support for the Afghanistan government.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose country also lags on the two percent pledge, said the focus should be on "outputs" rather than on how much is spent. Other presidents has raised European defence spending levels in the past but he is intent on dealing with it.

On Nato, President Trump's main objection is that a number of member states have not increased their defence budgets to the target of 2 percent of economic output.

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"He chews out the allies then embraces the adversary", one diplomat told AFP recently.

"The United States continues to devote more resources to the defense of Europe when the Continent's economy, including Germany's, are doing well and security challenges abound".

"Our summit comes at a time when some are questioning the strength of the transatlantic bond and I would not be surprised if we have robust discussions at the summit, including on defense spending", Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday.

Of his meetings in Brussels and Britain and with Putin, he said: "Frankly, [the meeting with] Putin may be the easiest of them all - who would think? It is very inappropriate", he said.

Mr Trump is a hard guest: he's tweeted his meeting with Mr Putin might be easier than those with Europeans.

Last month, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said that while United States politicians are accusing Europe of being dependent on Russian gas, Washington was force-feeding Europe its liquefied natural gas, which is three times more expensive than natural gas from Russia.

Italy's new populist government lines up squarely with Mr. Trump on a range of issues, including a firm stance to stop the mass immigration that is vexing Europe.

Still they're trying, mostly, to be hospitable this week. "Who would think", the president said.

Relations between Canada and the US were dropped into the deep freeze following the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs by the Trump administration - an action that triggered swift, sweeping tariff retaliation from the Liberal government. The EU hit back with tariffs on products including motorcycles and orange juice.

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