German Chancellor Angela Markel rejected President Donald Trump’s claims that Germany “is totally controlled by Russia” by recalling her own youth in Soviet-dominated East Germany and defending her nation’s independence and policies.
Trump made his remarks ahead of a NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels this morning. He specifically cited the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, an offshore natural gas pipeline from Vyborg in the Russian Federation to Greifswald in Germany.
“I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump said.
He added: “They will be getting between 60 and 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that is appropriate because I think it’s not.”
TRUMP: “Germany is totally controlled by Russia … They will be getting between 60 and 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that is appropriate because I think it's not." pic.twitter.com/VKkexpCEn1
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 11, 2018
Merkel responded shortly afterward.
“Because of given circumstances, I want to point out one thing: I experienced the Soviet occupation of one part of Germany myself. I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany. 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.”
Angela Merkel: "I've experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union, and I’m very happy today that we are united in freedom … and can thus say that we can determine our own policies and make our own decisions and that’s very good." https://t.co/5Ro9JTSLbU
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 11, 2018
Prickly reply to Trump from Angela Merkel:
“I myself have experienced Soviet control over part of Germany.”
But Germany lives “united in freedom, and for that reason we can make make sovereign decisions. That’s a very good thing, especially for people in the former east.”
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) July 11, 2018
Merkel also struck down Trump’s claims that the United States spends too much on defense, while other NATO members spend too little.
“Germany contributes a lot… Germany is the second largest provider of troops, the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement toward Afghanistan. In that we also defend the interests of the United States,” she said.
She concluded her statements by announcing Germany’s plan to increase its defense spending:
We are willing to increase our defense spending as agreed in Wales. By 2028, we will have increased spending by 28 percent since 2014. Given those facts, I confidently join this summit.
Merkel’s statements appear to have fallen on deaf ears; reporters have confirmed the president’s intention to meet with Merkel and “reiterate his morning assertion” that Germany is controlled by Russia.
Just in: Trump will meet privately with Angela Merkel this afternoon in a pull-aside at NATO and plans to reiterate his morning assertion that Germany is captive to Russia, @PressSec told pooler @juliehdavis.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) July 11, 2018
Trump will meet individually this afternoon with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, per Sarah Sanders.
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) July 11, 2018
Per @PressSec Trump will have "pull-aside" meetings with both German Chancellor Angela Merkel & French President Emmanuel Macron on the NATO summit sideline. Will raise the natural gas issue he spoke about earlier directly w Merkel
— Julie Davis (@juliehdavis) July 11, 2018
The president’s claim that the United States’ NATO commitments are too overbearing is also misleading. It was Merkel who, along with President Obama, raised NATO spending in 2014 after Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea.
The NATO summit is certain to define a rocky week for international diplomacy, and the president’s comments come mere weeks after Canada, through its Foreign Affairs Minister, rejected Trump’s call for Russia to be readmitted into the “Group of 7,” a group of the seven largest advanced economies in the world.