Trump brands Germany a "captive of Russian Federation", days before he meets Putin

While Democratic congressional leaders condemned Trump's attacks on Germany as "brazen insults and denigration of one of America's most steadfast allies", Republicans took a more benign view, and some backed him outright.

Trump's criticism involved countries he said are not spending enough on their own defenses in exchange for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation protection.

Seemingly intent on hazing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Trump brought up a gas pipeline under construction between Russia and Germany, which could make Western Europe more dependent on Russian energy supplies and which previous administrations have objected to.

On the streets of Berlin, people were just shaking their heads.

"That is why I welcome President Trump's forthcoming meeting with President Putin: open channels of communication between the U.S. and Russian Federation are key to managing the risks of confrontation", she said.

"We are investing heavily in the German armed forces and other European countries too, because the armed forces need it".

Their chancellor, Angela Merkel, hit back with a condemnation of her own, "denying her country was "totally controlled" by Russian Federation and saying it made its own independent decisions and policies".

Mrs Merkel offered a stern rebuke to the US President, harking back to her past after growing up in Soviet-controlled former religion of East Germany.

'President Trump, who spoke first, raised the issue not only to achieve 2 percent, today, but a new barrier - 4 percent, ' Bulgarian President Rumen Radev told reporters, according to the wire service Reuters.

Germany has been a frequent target for Trump, who accuses the EU's largest economy of not spending enough on defence and freeloading on the back of the United States.

But the US president did not stop his criticism of Germany there. "On that point the American friends have a point", von der Leyen said.

"I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany".

"We're supposed to protect you against Russian Federation", he told Stoltenberg, "but they're paying billions of dollars to Russian Federation and I think that's very inappropriate". "Explain that. And it can't be explained, you know that".

Trump is reportedly considering imposing sanctions on the five European countries involved in the pipeline project. Meanwhile, he told reporters on Tuesday that his meeting with Putin "may be the easiest of them all".

By the end of the day in Brussels when Merkel and Trump sat down together, neither seemed interested in continuing the spat - at least not in their public statements in front of the cameras.

Asked at a news conference about Trump's demands on defence spending, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg suggested that the focus should be on getting every member country to reach the current goal of 2 per cent.

The attack on the Skripals was an example of a growing disregard for "the norms and laws that help to keep us safe", she said, and undermined her vision for a rules-based global order.

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