If ‘everyone’ has good relations with Russia, Nord Stream may be ‘less of a problem’ – Trump to NATO
US President Donald Trump hinted at the change of heart at a media conference following the NATO summit in Brussels.
“Frankly, maybe everybody is going to have a good relationship with Russia, so there will be a lot less problem with the pipeline. But to me it was a major point of contention. We discussed it at length today. Germany has agreed to do a lot better than they were doing,” he said.
Trump was referring to what he described as Germany’s pledge to spend more on defense along with other NATO members, which he sees as a major win for his administration.
Speaking to journalists, Trump seemed pleased with himself for attacking Germany on its energy import from Russia during the first day of the summit.
“I brought it up. Nobody brought it up but me,” he said. “Actually, I think the world is talking about it now maybe more than anything else.”
On Wednesday, Trump called Germany a “captive” of Russia for buying Russian natural gas. The remark was rejected by top German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Berlin conducts an independent foreign policy and was not a captive of any country.
Germany insists that its trade with Russia is a national issue and not that of NATO or the EU, and its allies in Western Europe seem to agree. French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke to the media after Trump on Thursday, said he personally didn’t find Trump’s remarks about Germany shocking but believed that countries should “take such decision in a sovereign manner.”
“Mr. Trump shared his point of view. An ally has the right to speak about strategic issues,” Macron said.
Russia and Germany are currently connected directly by the Nord Stream, an underwater pipeline through the Baltic Sea. A second pipeline that would double the capacity of the first one is currently under construction. The US opposes the project, claiming it would give Russia more leverage over Europe. Officials in Germany and Russia say the US is simply trying to wrestle its way into the European energy market and sell its own liquefied natural gas.
Trump’s targeting of Russian-European energy cooperation, and Merkel personally, during a NATO summit is simply a publicity stunt that would have no tangible effect on the energy trade itself, according to Vladislav Belov, the head of the Center for German Studies at the Moscow-based Institute of Europe.
“Trump linked defense spending of the US with German spending on Russian hydrocarbons. Apparently he sees this as a matter of security that Germany spends money on gas and not on defense. It’s a typical Trump dilettante approach,” he told RT.
Belov said there was “zero chance” that Germany would bend to Trump’s pressure on the pipeline project, regardless of how he attacks the German chancellor. “Trump’s hostile rhetoric towards Merkel proves that apparently Obama forgot to hand over the secret dossier with compromising materials against her, which some conspiracy theorists in Russia claim must exist,” he joked.