Angela Merkel has pushed back against Donald Trump’s extraordinary tirade against Germany on the first day of the Nato summit in Brussels, denying her country was “totally controlled” by Russia and saying it made its own independent decisions and policies.
In less blunt language than the US president’s, the German chancellor made the point that she needed no lessons in dealing with authoritarian regimes, recalling she had been brought up in East Germany when it had been part of the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence.
Arriving at Nato headquarters only hours after Trump singled out Germany for criticism, Merkel said: “I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.”
She also hit back at Trump’s criticism that Germany contributed too little to European defence. “Germany does a lot for Nato,” she said.
“Germany is the second largest provider of troops, the largest part of our military capacity is offered to Nato and until today we have a strong engagement towards Afghanistan. In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”
Earlier the US president had accused Berlin of being a “a captive of the Russians” because of its dependence on energy supplies.
At his first meeting of the summit, with the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, Trump described the relationship between Germany and Russia as “inappropriate”.
Nato officials had been nervously awaiting the first meeting as an indicator of how Trump – who arrived in Brussels on Tuesday night – would behave over the next two days. Within minutes they had their answer.
This summit is shaping up to be the most divisive in Nato’s 69-year history. Normally, Nato summits are mostly fixed in advance and proceed in an orderly fashion. Trump’s first words signalled this one was not going to be like that.
He complained that German politicians had been working for Russian energy companies after leaving politics and said this too was inappropriate. Germany was totally controlled by Russia, Trump said.