Trump Goes After NATO, Germany Again While at Summit: ‘What Good’ Are They?

Donald Trump is once again attacking NATO…while at the NATO summit.

Let’s review.

The president received a lot of attention and criticism today when he started the summit with America’s allies in Brussels by attacking Germany in the middle of a photo-op. While Trump was expected to present his complaints that NATO’s member nations don’t contribute enough and make the U.S. cover the defense bill, he ended up going on a tangent over this international “delinquency,” and he also slammed the Germans over their energy dealings with Russia.

After Trump ranted that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” Chancellor Angela Merkel fired back by reminding him that she grew up while the Soviet Union occupied East Germany, so she has a pretty good idea of what it really means to be under Russia’s thumb. When the two world leaders spoke to reporters ahead of a meeting together, Trump tried to dial things back and play nice by touting the “tremendous relationship” their countries share.

That brings us to Trump’s tweet, so all in all, it looks like we’re right back where we started when the day began.

[Mediaite]

Trump Kicks Off NATO Summit With Breakfast Rant: ‘Germany Is A Captive Of Russia’

President Donald Trump on Wednesday kicked off what is shaping up to be a contentious NATO summit by lashing out at Germany, saying the country is “captive to Russia” because of a gas pipeline deal.

In a bilateral breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in front of reporters, Trump immediately launched into a tirade about the pipeline.

“It’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” he said.

“If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia, because they supply ― they got rid of their coal plants, got rid of their nuclear, they’re getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia,” he added. “I think it’s something NATO has to look at.”

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia, cause they are getting 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,” he said.

Trump’s comments referred to Berlin’s support for the construction of the $12 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring gas across the Baltic Sea into the European continent. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the project is merely commercial, but the U.S. and other European Union members believe the pipeline could be a geopolitical incursion by Russia.

Stoltenberg responded by emphasizing NATO’s unity.

“NATO is an an alliance of 29 nations and sometimes there are differences and different views and also some disagreements, and the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany is one issue where allies disagree,” said Stoltenberg.

Trump is in Brussels for the NATO summit on Wednesday and Thursday, then will spend Friday and the weekend on a working visit to the UK, then will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

There are concerns that Trump will alienate NATO members ― traditional allies of the U.S. ― while cozying up to Putin.

Ahead of the NATO summit, Trump sent letters to allies Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium blasting them for not spending enough on defense ― an oft-repeated criticism of the alliance. Meanwhile, he told reporters on Tuesday that his meeting with Putin “may be the easiest of them all.”

Trump’s continued downplaying of Russian election interference has also deviated from broader international attitudes.

“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!,” he tweeted last month before tearing into the FBI and its former director James Comey. The U.S. intelligence community, backed by a Republican-led Senate panel, has definitively concluded that Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election to help Trump win.

Trump also called Putin “fine” in a fiery speech last week in which he also attacked European allies.

Back in the U.S., the Senate on Tuesday voted 97-2 on a motion of support for NATO.

“Unfortunately, this motion has become necessary because some of our closest allies have come to question the US commitment to collective self-defense. President Trump has at times called the alliance ‘obsolete.’ Our allies are starting to wonder whether they can rely on the United States to come to their defense in a crisis,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who authored the nonbinding motion.

[Huffington Post]

Media

Trump busted lying about Germany

President Donald Trump on Monday made clearly false claims about Germany — which will likely only buttress support for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump made three claims about Germany.

“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition,” Trump tweeted.

Jeremy Cliffe, the Berlin bureau chief for The Economist, reminded that, “Merkel remains the most popular politician in Germany.”

Ironically, Trump tweeting against Merkel actually shores up her domestic political support.

“The US president’s intervention could be useful domestically for Ms Merkel because of his unpopularity; just 11 per cent of Germany has a favourable view of Mr Trump, according to research by pollster Pew for the Germany public broadcaster DW,” The Independent noted.

In fact, Trump may have just thrown Merkel a life preserver.

“Nice of the president to help Angela Merkel by giving her exactly what she needed politically : a Trump endorsement of her opponents,” explained Hudson Institute fellow Benjamin Haddad.

Trump’s second claim was that, “crime in Germany is way up.”

Reuters national security correspondent Jonathan Landay explained how thoroughly Trump had misrepresented crime in Germany.

“This is another lie by Trump,” Landay reported. “Crime is at a 30-year low in Germany.”

Trump’s third claim was that it was a “big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

“Under Merkel, Germany opened its borders to welcome around 1 million asylum-seekers in 2015. At times more than 10,000 people were arriving daily in the country, which had a population of around 81 million,” NBC News reported Monday. “But according to official figures released last month, Germany last year recorded its lowest number of criminal offenses since 1992, with figures showing the crime rate is falling more quickly among non-German suspects.”

CNN political contributor Keith Boykin reminded how this particular lie has been used in the past.

“Germany last month reported its lowest crime rate since 1992,” Boykin reminded. “Austrian-born Adolf Hitler also used lies and misinformation about crime to complain about groups of people in Germany who had ‘changed their culture.’”

The host of the Michelangelo Signorile Show on SiriusXM had even hasher words.

“Crime is not up. This is another lie. And the last line is a chilling call to white supremacists,” Signorile observed. “He’s gone full on Nazi.”

[Raw Story]

Reality

Trump used his false claims to assert Europe is losing it’s white European culture, making a very clear appeal to white nationalism.

Germans Appalled by Threat From Trump’s Ambassador to Help Far-Right Nationalists Take Power Across Europe

THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT demanded a formal explanation from the United States on Monday of what, exactly, the new U.S. ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, meant when he promised to use his office to help far-right nationalists inspired by Donald Trump take power across Europe.

In an interview with Breitbart News, published on Sunday, Grenell said he was “excited” by the rise of far-right parties on the continent and wanted “to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders.”

Grenell was apparently not asked if that group includes the far-right Alternative for Germany — known by its German initials AfD — the largest opposition party in the German parliament, but he did praise Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a center-right politician who is in coalition with the Freedom Party, which was formed in the 1950s by a former Nazi officer.

A spokesperson for the German foreign ministry told reporters that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government had “asked the U.S. side for clarification” as to whether the remarks “were made as reported.”

Grenell, a former Fox News pundit whose abrasive Twitter style had already alienated many Germans, tweeted on Monday that it was “ridiculous” to suggest that he would endorse candidates or parties, but stood by his claim to Breitbart that Europe, like America, was “experiencing an awakening from the silent majority — those who reject the elites and their bubble. Led by Trump.”

Leaving aside that Trump was, in fact, elected by a hypervocal minority of American voters, his envoy’s apparent willingness to cast off diplomatic neutrality and meddle in the internal affairs of European countries caused an uproar.

Sevim Dagdelen, a member of the left-wing German opposition party Die Linke, suggested that Grenell had revealed himself to be Trump’s “regime change envoy.”

The leaders of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, the junior coalition partner in Merkel’s government, were similarly unstinting in their condemnation. “Europe’s citizens cannot be told how to vote by a Trump vassal,” the party’s vice chair, Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, wrote on Twitter. “A U.S. ambassador who meddles in democratic contests is simply out of place,” he added, perhaps hinting that the ambassador could be asked to go home.

Martin Schulz, the former leader of the Social Democrats, accused Grenell of behaving less like a diplomat than “an extreme-right colonial officer.”

Omid Nouripour, the foreign policy spokesman for Germany’s Green party, told Der Spiegel that “the American people should be able to expect partisan neutrality from their representative in Germany, because he represents all Americans, not just Breitbart and Fox News.”

Guy Verhofstadt, a former prime minister of Belgium who now leads the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, a free-market group in the European Parliament, tweeted: “We have to defend Europe against Trump. It’s not up to his ambassador to influence our elections and steer our society. We respect the sovereignty of the U.S., they have to respect ours.” Verhofstadt added the hashtag #GrenellRaus — “Grenell Out” — to his tweet.

There was, however, one political leader in Berlin on Monday who demonstrated his support for the embattled American ambassador. Israel’s far-right prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced at a news conference with Merkel that he had agreed to a brief meeting with Grenell, at the ambassador’s request, before leaving the German capital.

Before he was confirmed by the Senate, Grenell — a hyperpartisan Republican activist whose farewell party in New York was attended by Donald Trump Jr., Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Wayne Newton, and a half-dozen Fox News personalities — had promised to stay out of German politics.

[The Intercept]

Trump wants a total ban on German luxury car imports

US President Donald Trump wants to escalate his trade war to include a total ban on German luxury cars, says a report in WirtschaftsWoche. According to the German publication, which says its report results from talking to several unnamed US and European diplomats, during French President Macron’s recent visit to Washington Trump told him that he would “maintain his trade policy until no Mercedes models rolled on Fifth Avenue in New York.”

This news follows news last week that Trump had already asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to launch an investigation into the national security threat posed by imported cars, trucks, and auto parts, as well as wanting to add 25 percent tariffs on imported vehicles. WirtschaftsWoche‘s article points out that just prior to his inauguration in 2017, Trump railed against the Mercedes-Benz vehicles he saw in New York.

When you walk down Fifth Avenue, everyone has a Mercedes-Benz in front of their house.” But that’s not reciprocity. “How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Not too many, maybe none at all, you do not see anything over there, it’s a one-way street,” said the real estate billionaire. Although he is for free trade, but not at any price: “I love free trade, but it must be a smart trade, so I call him fair.

The US market is extremely important for luxury German automakers, and a ban on importing new vehicles would be devastating for brands like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. But even if Trump gets his wish, an import ban is highly unlikely to have the effect he’s looking for. Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz maintain large manufacturing presences here in the US, in part because any vehicles they build and sell here are exempt from existing import tariffs.

BMW’s factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, employs over 10,000 workers and produced more than 371,000 cars in 2017. The Mercedes-Benz factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, builds a similar number of vehicles, and just last year parent company Daimler invested $1.3 billion expanding the facility. Daimler also has a new factory in Charleston, South Carolina building Sprinter vans.

Daimler declined to comment on the proposed ban, but a spokesperson pointed out that the company supports more than 150,000 jobs here, and 22.8 percent of Daimler’s shareholders are from the US. Audi and BMW had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.

[Ars Techina]

Donald Trump warns NATO members will be ‘dealt with’ if they refuse to pay more for military alliance

Donald Trump singled out Germany in renewing his criticism of Nato members he accuses of not contributing enough, saying laggards would be “dealt with”.

Speaking alongside Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, at the White House, Mr Trump reiterated a longstanding charge that America bears a disproportionate share of supporting the military alliance’s activities.

Germany “has not contributed what it should be contributing and it’s a very big beneficiary”, said the president, who has long had a frosty relationship with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

The president’s world view is rooted in a belief that the US has consistently been taken advantage of by international pacts and organisations – a scepticism that fuels his unilaterally focused “America First” stance.

During the presidential campaign, he suggested America might only defend Nato allies if they had “fulfilled their obligations to us”.

Despite Mr Trump’s wariness, Mr Stoltenberg praised the president for impelling other nations to augment defense spending, saying “it is impacting allies because now all allies are increasing defense spending”.

During the presidential campaign, he suggested America might only defend Nato allies if they had “fulfilled their obligations to us”.

Despite Mr Trump’s wariness, Mr Stoltenberg praised the president for impelling other nations to augment defence spending, saying “it is impacting allies because now all allies are increasing defence spending”.

[The Independent]

Media

US allies furious that Trump couldn’t be bothered to read a 5-page document they prepared for him

Top American allies in Europe are reportedly upset that President Donald Trump tore up the Iran nuclear agreement without even engaging with their concerns about taking such actions.

The Washington Post reports that the United Kingdom, France and Germany had spent the past several months trying to negotiate with the U.S. State Department about a restructured version of the Iran nuclear deal that would address some of Trump’s stated concerns about the agreement.

Even though the sides were reportedly close to an agreement in April, Trump decided to tear up the pact anyway, much to European leaders’ annoyance.

To make matters worse, the Post reports that French President Emanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson all believed Trump hadn’t even bothered to understand their concerns.

“When Macron, Merkel and Johnson traveled to Washington in the days and weeks before Trump’s announcement, all came away with the feeling Trump had not read the five-page document they had prepared and perhaps was even unaware of the effort,” the publication reports. “In Brussels, where the E.U. is headquartered, many are skeptical that any further discussion is possible with the United States.”

Trump Fires Back at Merkel, Says Germany is ‘Very Bad’ For The US

President Donald Trump has criticized Germany once again for its large trade surplus with the U.S. and its low contributions to NATO, saying this attitude is “very bad” for the United States.

The comments made on Twitter take current tensions in U.S.-German relations a notch higher.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said at an election rally on Sunday that Germany and the European Union can no longer rely on the United States.

“The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over,” she told the rally in Munich.

“I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands,” she said. Her comments came as she steps up her campaign in the September federal election.

The image of friendly relations between Germany and the U.S. seems distant since Trump took office. His administration has previously said that Germany’s trade surplus is a result of the country’s manipulation of the euro.

Germany fought back arguing that it doesn’t have powers to manipulate the euro and the only reason consumers opt for its products is because they are more competitive.

Data released last February by the German Federal Statistics Office showed that Germany’s trade surplus rose to 252.9 billion euros ($270.05 billion) in 2016, surpassing the previous high of 244.3 billion euros in 2015. If it were a single trade partner, Germany would be the fifth largest in total trade flows with the U.S. But it runs the third largest trade surplus, after China and Japan.

Meanwhile, contributions to the defense alliance NATO has emerged as another problem between Berlin and Washington. Trump has repeatedly asked NATO allies to step up their contributions. At the moment, only 5 of the 28 members fulfill the target of paying at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

According to NATO data, Germany is currently spending 1.2 percent of its GDP on NATO. The U.S. spends 3.6 percent.

At a summit last week, Germany, like other NATO members, vowed to present an action plan on how it will increase defense spending. At the time, Trump told his allies they were being unfair toward U.S. taxpayers.

[CNBC]

Allies Distance Themselves From U.S. After Trump’s First Foreign Trip

President Trump received a largely cordial welcome on the first overseas trip of his presidency. But now that he’s returned to Washington, the foreign leaders he met with are increasingly blunt in their reviews of the American president.

In separate remarks intended mostly for domestic consumption, leaders of Germany, France and Israel all sought to distance themselves from Trump, just days after meeting with the president during his nine-day foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican City, Brussels and Italy.

Among the sources of friction: Trump’s reluctance to unreservedly commit to the North Atlantic alliance, his skepticism of a climate change accord signed on to by his predecessor, President Obama, and outreach to Palestinians in pursuit of a Middle East peace agreement.

“It’s clear that in Europe at least, that anti-Trump position plays well domestically,” said Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO in the Obama administration. “But the larger issue is that the trip didn’t go well in Europe.”

The dynamic is partly one of Trump’s brash style. “I think what grates on European leaders is the sense that he does not treat them as equals, let alone as allies,” Daalder said. “He approaches them in this confrontational way, in an attempt to constantly get a better deal out of them.”

Trump hasn’t spoken about the trip publicly, avoiding press conferences for the entire journey. But on Twitter, he pronounced the mission a triumph. “Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!” Trump tweeted on Sunday.

The reaction abroad was more cautious:

France: New French President Emmanuel Macron said his now-famous white-knuckled handshake with Trump was a deliberate attempt to demonstrate that he wouldn’t be bullied by the American president. “One must show that you won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones, but also not over-publicize things, either,” he told the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche“My handshake with him — it wasn’t innocent.”

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday at a Bavarian beer hall that Europe can no longer “fully rely” on its overseas allies. On climate issues, she said, the Group of Seven meeting was “seven against one” — counting the European Union as part of the seven (and the United States as the one). Her chief political rival took umbrage at the way Trump sought to “humiliate” Merkel in Brussels. “I reject with outrage the way this man takes it upon himself to treat the head of our country’s government,” said Martin Schulz, who is challenging Merkel for the chancellorship as an “anti-Trump” candidate. He said Trump was “acting like an autocratic leader.”

United Kingdom: British Prime Minister Theresa May is upset that American intelligence officials leaked information about the Manchester concert bombing to the media. Trump acknowledged that he got an earful from May, tweeting Sunday that she was “very angry” about the leaks. “Gave me full details!”

Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said Israel has “no better friend” than Trump, appeared to hold the president at arm’s length on Monday. Speaking to members of his conservative Likud party, Netanyahu warned that a Trump-brokered peace negotiation with the Palestinians “comes at a price.” And while he welcomed U.S. support for Israel, he emphasized that “there is no such thing as innocent gifts.”

Palestinian Authority: An Israeli television station reported that Trump shouted at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during their meeting in Bethlehem last week yelling, “You tricked me!” and accusing the Palestinian Authority of inciting violence in the West Bank. (The Palestinians denied the report.)

Trump’s trip began in Saudi Arabia with a summit of Muslim Arab leaders — and they’re perhaps the least likely to grumble. After feeling neglected by Obama, the Saudis welcomed a $110 billion arms package and Trump’s more bellicose rhetoric toward mutual enemies like Iran and the Islamic State.

But in Europe, Trump’s “America First” foreign policy appeared to alienate other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the 68-year-old alliance intended to contain Russia — the country at the center of a growing controversy over ties to Trump aides.

At a ceremony meant to solemnize the collective defense provision of the NATO charter in Brussels, Trump failed to explicitly reassure European allies that the U.S. would come to their aid in the event of an attack. Instead, he renewed his complaints that they were not paying their fair share. (In doing so, he misrepresented the commitment by NATO allies to spend at least 2% of their economies on defense.)

And in Sicily, where leaders of the G-7 economic powers gathered, Trump continued his hard-line stance on climate and trade issues. He reportedly told Merkel that Germany was “bad” or “evil” (depending on the translation) because of its trade imbalance with the United States.

But among Trump supporters, his tough talk to foreign leaders drew raves. Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he “could not be more pleased” with Trump’s international travels.

“The trip was executed to near perfection and it appears the president has made great progress on the broad range of objectives,” he said after speaking with Trump on Sunday.

[USA Today]

‘The Germans Are Bad, Very Bad’: Trump Pledges to ‘Stop’ German Car Sales to US

President Donald Trump is ready to fight Germany in an auto battle according to Germany’s Der Spiegel.

Trump got a chilly reception at the NATO summit in Belgium after attacking fellow members. But he was caught pledging a battle with German automakers as part of his anger with “back dues” he feels the country owes to NATO. As CNN’s Jake Tapper noted Thursday, “Trump seems to think it’s like a country club.”

In a discussion about the country’s trade surplus, Trump said. “The Germans are evil, very evil.”

“Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US, and we’ll stop that,” sources told Der Spiegel.

According to the report, EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker took up for Germany explaining that “free trade is good for all.”

According to a report from the “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” the EU allies were horrified by the willingness of the Americans to view global trade with such a lack of awareness. Trump’s economic consultant Gary Cohn was said to have chided German auto trade during a discussion between the US and Germany and the USA and Belgium. Trump had previously attacked them during another conversation.

“I would say to BMW if they want to build a factory in Mexico and sell cars to the US without a 35 percent tax, they can forget that,” Trump said at the time.

The report revealed that since that comment, there has been “a threat of a criminal tax” in the room.

Trump is bothered by Germany’s trade surplus because many other countries have deficits, particularly the U.S.

[Raw Story]

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