Trump insists he has ‘very good’ relations with Merkel

NATO leaders at the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels

He said Trump must make it clear to Putin that Russian Federation must cease meddling in US and European elections, do something about the annexation of Crimea, work with the U.S.to remove Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from power and put the squeeze on Iran. Most NATO members are spending less than 2 percent, though more are moving in that direction.

Aboard Air Force One: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies of defaulting on their defense spending commitments and indicated they should "reimburse" the United States.

"I think it's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia when you're supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia", Trump told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

"We're paying for anywhere from 70 to 90 percent to protect Europe, and that's fine."
"Germany is totally controlled by Russian Federation because they will be getting 60-70 percent of their energy from Russian Federation and a new pipeline". The project is opposed by the USA and some European Union members.

"There is no ledger that maintains accounts of what countries pay and owe", says former Obama administration National Security Council staffer Aaron O'Connell. "You tell me if that's appropriate".

"It took a long time for Washington to get that idea, but it got there in the end".

"Germany is a captive of Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia", Trump said, taking particular aim at the proposed Nord Stream II gas pipeline, which he has previously criticised. "They will be getting between 60 and 70 percent of their energy from Russian Federation and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that is appropriate because I think it's not", the president said. "Will they reimburse the USA?"

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Trump's biggest target for criticism, Germany, predicts that it will be spending 1.5 per cent of GDP on its military budget by 2024. NATO acknowledges an "over-reliance" on the U.S. What NATO partners dispute is Trump's repeated suggestion that the U.S. gets little in return for its commitment to defend member countries if threatened. "Since Trump became president, USA funding for military presence in Europe - the European Deterrence Initiative -has been increased by 40 percent".

"I think once the trend started changing in 2014, that created momentum even before he became president", says American University's Martin.

Stoltenberg offered a more diplomatic take, saying: "There are sometimes differences and different views". "We're protecting everybody", he said.

Some Democratic lawmakers were quick to criticize the president for his remarks, questioning his desire for warmer relations with Moscow.

Without mentioning Trump or his comments specifically, she noted that she had grown up in communist East Germany behind the Iron Curtain.

What gas deal was Trump referring to?

Trump said they had a "great meeting" and praised a "very, very good relationship with the chancellor" as well as a "tremendous relationship with Germany", while Merkel said she was happy for the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the president and was "very much looking forward to further" exchanges.

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