The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reminded the US President Donald Trump that she grew up in a country that was “totally dominated” by Russia.
It comes after President Trump accused Germany of being a Russian “captive” and continued his attack on US allies over their defence spending.
The US President is in Europe as leaders begin to gather for a two-day NATO summit in Brussels.
Beginning his trip with an attack on Germany, President Trump said an “inappropriate” gas deal with Russia had left Berlin “totally controlled” by Moscow.
However, on her arrival at the summit Mrs Merkel made it clear the Germany remains completely free in its policy choices.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at today’s summit, 11-07-2018. Image: AP Photo/Francois Mori
“I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union,” she told reporters.
“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.”
At the working breakfast this morning, President Trump continued his attacks on Europe and again called on NATO members to boost their defence spending.
“Germany, as far as I'm concerned, is captive of Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia,” he said.
“So we're supposed to protect Germany but they're getting their energy from Russia. Explain that. It can't be explained.”
Mr Trump added: “They pay billions of dollars to Russia and we have to defend them against Russia.”
Bilateral Breakfast with NATO Secretary General in Brussels, Belgium... pic.twitter.com/l0EP3lzhCM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
The Nord Stream II pipeline is owned and operated by Nord Stream AG.
Once complete it is expected Russia will be supplying some 40% of Europe’s gas.
Mr Stoltenberg - apparently startled by the ferocity of the US president's assault - shot back with a reminder of NATO's common cause.
He also stressed how "even during the Cold War, NATO allies were trading with Russia."
Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2% (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made. Will they reimburse the U.S.?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2018
Ahead of this week's summit, Mr Trump has routinely urged other NATO members to increase their military spending.
NATO countries have set a goal of moving “toward” spending 2% of their GDP on defence by 2024, however this was not a commitment and only a handful are likely to reach the target.
No countries owe a debt to NATO - or a NATO debt to the US.
Mrs Merkel this afternoon defended Germany’s contribution to the alliance.
“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 toward Afghanistan.
“In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”
US President Donald Trump walks to greet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Belgium, 11-07-2018. Image: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
“I think that these countries have to step it up,” said President Trump. “Not over a ten-year period; they have to step it up immediately.
“Germany is a rich country. They talk about they can increase it a tiny bit by 2030; well they could increase it immediately tomorrow and have no problem.
“I don’t think it is fair to the United States.
“We are going to have to do something because we are not going to put up with it.”
Mr Stoltenberg earlier agreed NATO allies "have to invest more in defence" but added: "That's exactly what they're doing."
With reporting from IRN ...