US President Donald Trump has clashed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over Russian influence and defence spending, ahead of a NATO summit.
Mr Trump said Germany was “totally controlled by Russia” because of the high level of natural gas it imported, and this was a “bad thing for Nato”.
Mrs Merkel hit back, comparing German independence now with the time when she grew up in the former East Germany.
She also defended her country’s contribution to the Western alliance.
The last summit both leaders attended ended in acrimony in a row over trade. Mr Trump later made more conciliatory remarks after he and Mrs Merkel had met on the sidelines of the summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
The summit comes less than a week before Mr Trump is due to hold his first summit with Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki, reviving concerns among US allies over his proximity to the Russian president.
President Trump shocked some by quipping that the Nato summit might prove harder than next Monday’s summit with Mr Putin.
He has said the US is being “taken advantage of” by other members of the Nato alliance, which was set up in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union, of which Russia is the main successor state.
European Council President Donald Tusk accused him of criticising Europe “almost daily”, tweeting: “Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many.”
Germany has the EU’s biggest economy and has long been accused by US administrations of failing to contribute its fair share to Nato operations but Mr Trump’s comments were particularly stinging.
At a breakfast meeting in Brussels with Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg, the US leader said: “Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting from 60% to 70% of their energy from Russia, and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that’s appropriate because I think it’s not and I think it’s a very bad thing for Nato.”
EU figures suggest Russia is responsible for between 50% and 75% of Germany’s gas imports, but gas makes up less than 20% of Germany’s energy mix for power production.
Germany has given political support for a new Baltic Sea pipeline, Nord Stream 2, which will increase the flow of Russian gas to EU states. The project has been sharply criticised by Poland and others.
The US president also accused Germany of only spending “a little bit over 1%” of its economic output on defence compared to the 4.2% spent by the US “in actual numbers”.
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