President Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had a riveting exchange Wednesday morning at a table featuring representatives from both the U.S. and NATO at a meeting in Brussels. Trump came out swinging on the hypocrisy of NATO's goal to protect countries from Russia while at the same time making energy deals with the nation.
"So we're supposed to protect you against Russia but they're paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that's very in inappropriate," Trump said. "And the former Chancellor of Germany is the head of the pipeline company that is supplying the gas. Ultimately, Germany will have almost 70% of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas. So you tell me, is that appropriate? I've been complaining about this from the time I got in."
The U.S. president said Germany is "totally controlled" by Russia through its oil and gas deals with the country, also calling it "very sad." Trump said NATO is essentially protecting Russia also. He called it a bad deal for NATO and asked if the NATO Secretary General if he thought that was appropriate.
"They'll say wait a minute we're supposed to be protecting you from Russia but why are you paying billions of dollars to Russia for energy? Why are countries in NATO, namely Germany having a large percentage of their energy needs paid to Russia and taken care of by Russia?" Trump asked.
Trump repeated it doesn't make sense that NATO's mission is protecting western Europe from the influence of Russia while at the same time these countries are making energy deals with the nation. He said if we're going to have an alliance that means shared interests it must also mean shared investments.
"Germany is a captive of Russia," he said of the oil-gas deal between the two countries.
Trump called on countries, specifically Germany, to "step it up" on their contribution to NATO immediately, not 10 years from now.
"Germany as far as I am concerned is captive to Russia ... we're supposed to protect Germany while they are getting their energy from Russia, explain that," Trump once again asked the NATO Secretary General.
Trump also called it "very unfair" to the United States and to taxpayers.
UPDATE (1:00pm ET): Trump tweets 'What good is NATO?'
What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are their only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
Andrea Mitchell: Can only imagine what @SecPompeo, COS Kelly, US NATO Ambassador Hutchison thinking watching them look down awkwardly as @realDonaldTrump harangues NATO Secretary General saying Germany is captive to Russia. Unreal. Putin wins
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Good morning, everybody. Good morning to the media -- the legitimate media and the fake-news media. Good morning to them. A lot of good people here. Surprising.
QUESTION: Mr. President, which countries did you want to spend more on NATO in particular?
TRUMP: Just look at the chart. Take a look at the chart. It's public. And many countries are not paying what they should. And, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they're delinquent, as far as I'm concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them. So if you go back 10 or 20 years, you'll just add it all up. It's massive amounts of money is owed. The United States has paid and stepped up like nobody. This has gone on for decades, by the way. This has gone on for many Presidents. But no other President brought it up like I bring it up. So something has to be done, and the Secretary General has been working on it very hard.
This year, since our last meeting, commitments have been made for over $40 billion more money spent by other countries. So that's a step, but it's a very small step. It sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But it's a very small amount of money relative to what they owe and to what they should be paying. And it's an unfair burden on the United States.
So we're here to talk about that, and I'm sure it will be resolved. I have great confidence in the Secretary General. He's worked very, very hard on this, and he knows it's a fact. But I have great confidence in him and his representatives.
You going to say something?
NATO SECRETARY GENERAL STOLTENBERG: First of all, it's great to see you again, Mr. President. And good to have you here for a summit. And we are going to discuss many important issues at the summit. Among them is defense spending. And we all agree that we have to do more. I agree with you that we have to do make sure that our allies are investing more. The good news is that allies have started to invest more in defense.
After years of cutting defense budgets, they have started to add billions to their defense budgets. And last year was the biggest increase in defense spending across Europe and Canada in that generation.
TRUMP: Why was that last year?
STOLTENBERG: It's also because of your leadership, because of your carried message. And --
TRUMP: They won't write that, but that's okay.
STOLTENBERG: No, I have said it before, but the thing is that it really has. And your message is having an impact, and we are going to build on that to make sure that we have further increases. You initiated last year that all allies are going to develop national plans on how to spend more on defense. And based on these national plans, we now estimate that European allies and Canada will add 266 extra U.S. dollars for defense from now until -- billion U.S. dollars -- until 2024.
So this is really adding some extra momentum. It helps and we are moving in the right direction. But we still have to do more, and that is what we're going to address after the summit later on today.
Let me also add that a strong NATO is good for Europe and it's also good for the United States. The U.S. (inaudible) presence in Europe helps to protect Europe, but it also helps the United States project power to the Middle East, to Africa. And I think also that clout -- the military clout of Europe, economic clout, the political clout -- also is helpful dealing with Russia. And we look forward to the meeting you're going to have with President Putin. And I think that leaders are also looking forward to your thoughts about the meeting with President Putin later on.
I think it's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia when you're supposed to supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia. So we're protecting Germany, we're protecting France, we're protecting all of these countries and numerous countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they're paying billions into the coughers of Russia.
So we're supposed to protect you against Russia but they're paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that's very in inappropriate. And the former Chancellor of Germany is the head of the pipeline company that is supplying the gas. Ultimately, Germany will have almost 70% of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas. So you tell me, is that appropriate? I've been complaining about this from the time I got in. It should have never been allowed to happen. But Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they were getting from 60 to 70% of their energy from Russia in a new pipeline and you tell me if that is appropriate because I think it's not and I think it's a very bad thing for NATO. And I don't think it should have happened and I think we have to talk to Germany about that.
On top of that Germany is just paying a little over 1%. Whereas the United States in actual numbers is paying 4.2% of a much larger GDP. So I think that's inappropriate also. We're protecting Germany, we're protecting France, we're protecting everybody and yet we're paying a lot of money to protect. Now, this has been going on for decades. This has been brought up by other presidents but other presidents never did anything about it because I don't think they understood or just didn't want to get involved.
But I have to bring it up because I think it is very unfair to our country, it's very unfair to our taxpayers and I think that these countries have to step it up -- not over a 10 year period, they have to step it up immediately.
Germany is a very rich county. They talk about they can increase it a tiny bit by 2030. Well, they could increase it immediately tomorrow and have no problem. I don't think it is fair to the United States. so we're going to have to do something because we're not going to put up with it. We can't put up with it. And it's inappropriate. So we have to talk about the billions and billions that's being paid to the country that we're supposed to be protecting you against. Everybody's talking about it all over the world. They'll say wait a minute we're supposed to be protecting you from Russia but why are you paying billions of dollars to Russia for energy? Why are countries in NATO, namely Germany having a large percentage of their energy needs paid to Russia and taken care of by Russia?
Now, if you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia because they got rid of their coal plants, they got rid of their nuclear plants. They're getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia. I think it's something NATO has to look at.
I think it is very inappropriate. You and I agree it's inappropriate. I don't know what you can do about it now but it certainly doesn't seem to make sense that they've paid billions of dollars to Russia and now we have to defend them against Russia.
STOLTENBERG: You know, NATO is an alliance of 29 nations, and there are sometimes differences and different views, and also some disagreements. And the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany is one issue where allies disagree. But the strength of NATO is that despite these differences, we have always been able to unite around our core task, to protect and defend each other, because we understand that we are stronger together than apart.
I think that two World Wars and the Cold War taught us that we are stronger together than apart.
TRUMP: But how can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the person you want protection against or from the group that you want protection?
STOLTENBERG: Because we understand that when we stand together, also in dealing with Russia, we are stronger. I think what we have seen is that --
TRUMP: No, you're just making Russia richer. You're not dealing with Russia. You're making Russia richer.
STOLTENBERG: Well, I think that even during the Cold War, NATO Allies were trading with Russia, and then there have been disagreements about what kind of trade arrangements we should (inaudible).
TRUMP: I think trade is wonderful. I think energy is a whole different story. I think energy is a much different story than normal trade. And you have a country like Poland that won't accept the gas. You take a look at some of the countries -- they won't accept it, because they don't want to be captive to Russia. But Germany, as far as I'm concerned, is captive to Russia, because it's getting so much of its energy from Russia. So we're supposed to protect Germany, but they're getting their energy from Russia. Explain that. And it can't be explained -- you know that.
Can only imagine what @SecPompeo, COS Kelly, US NATO Ambassador Hutchison thinking watching them look down awkwardly as @realDonaldTrump harangues NATO Secretary General saying Germany is captive to Russia. Unreal. Putin wins— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) July 11, 2018
Defense Expenditures of NATO Countries - Forbes pic.twitter.com/7typrrD0J2— Jack Posobiec🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) July 11, 2018