Nato allies ‘delinquent’

Nato allies ‘delinquent’

President Trump in Brussels. (AFP)

Brussels: President Trump is in Brussels as part of a seven-day, three-nation European trip that highlights the ways he has utterly transformed US foreign policy.

Trump has disparaged Nato, and a meeting on Wednesday with the alliance’s secretary general got off to a confrontational start when he said other nations must spend more on defence and that Germany was “captive to Russia” on energy.

Trump upended generations of American diplomacy, antagonising and belittling traditional allies over issues like defence and trade, while refraining from criticising Russia, a traditional adversary.

After the Nato summit meeting, he is to travel to Britain and then to Finland to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

US First Lady Melania Trump (left) and her French counterpart Brigitte Macron at a concert in Waterloo, Belgium. (Reuters)

Trump kicked off his meetings on a contentious note, calling allies “delinquent” for failing to spend enough on their own defence and attacking Germany as a “captive” of Russia because of its energy dealings.

“Many countries are not paying what they should, and, frankly, many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back,” Trump said at a breakfast with Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, at the residence of the US ambassador to Belgium. “They’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them.”

He singled out Germany for particularly sharp criticism, saying the country was “totally controlled by Russia” because of its dependence on Russian natural gas. The US spends heavily to defend Germany from Russia, he said, and “Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.”

In March, Germany gave approval for Gazprom, the Russian energy titan, to construct the Nord Stream 2 pipeline through its waters, a $10 billion project.

“Germany is a captive of Russia” because of the oil and gas issue, Trump said. “I think it’s something that Nato has to look at.”

Stoltenberg countered that “despite differences,” Nato was about uniting “to protect and defend each other”. But Trump shrugged off the collective defence principle.