Trump says Putin meeting 'may be the easiest of them all'

Jens Stoltenberg

GETTYJens Stoltenberg is waiting to announce the new countries that hit the defence target this year

Opening the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels with a bang Wednesday, President Trump blasted Germany for a pipeline project that he said made Germany "totally controlled by Russian Federation".

Not while Donald Trump is President.

As he left the White House to travel to Europe on Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump had more harsh words for the multi-country military alliance that was has been a punching bag throughout his campaign and into his presidency. Not fair to the US taxpayer. "Today Europeans spend on defense many times more than Russian Federation, and as much as China".

Prior to boarding Air Force One for Europe, Trump already took jabs at European allies by other tweets, including "NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS". According to European Union statistics, the EU's trade surplus in 2017 was $140bn (€120bn; £106bn). "We pay far too much, and they pay far too little, but we will work it out, and all countries will be happy".

For his part, Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker remarked that "NATO and the European Union are the most natural of partners", adding that the EU executive had proposed a dramatic increase in defence spending in its draft 2021-2027 budget.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (C) and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) sign a new joint declaration on EU-NATO cooperation in Brussels, Belgium, July 10, 2018.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, "Getting ready to leave for Europe".

Last month, the United States raised fears of a trade war by slapping tariffs on steel and aluminium from the EU, Canada, Mexico and other USA allies.

Trump has repeatedly berated America's European allies for not spending enough on their own defence and launched a fresh broadside as he set off for the Brussels summit, which starts on Wednesday. Furthermore, all member states contribute to NATO's overall budget based on their national income, with the USA providing about 22% of the budget.

And while US spending in constant dollar terms has risen slightly since 2014, its share of NATO's overall spending has fallen.

But European Council President Donald Tusk hit back with his own message on the social media site, insisting that the USA has no better ally than the EU.

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