Trump stokes tensions with United States allies ahead of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit

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"We're supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia", Trump said in the presence of reporters at a pre-summit meeting at the residence of the USA ambassador to Belgium.

"Germany, as far as I'm concerned, is captive to Russia because it's getting so much of its energy from Russia", Trump told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a fiery on-camera exchange that was almost without precedent in the history of the post-World War II alliance.

- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2018Many countries in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, 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.

Berlin has given political support to the building of a new, $11-billion pipeline to bring Russian gas across the Baltic Sea called Nord Stream 2, despite qualms among other European Union states.

Stoltenberg said alliance leaders on July 12 will meet with the presidents of Georgia and Ukraine "to address regional challenges" and to "discuss their defense reforms and NATO's continuing support". Well, they could increase it immediately tomorrow and have no problem, ' he said.

Trump repeatedly pressed Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary general, on why the US continued to pay money to the military alliance while countries continue to purchase energy from Moscow.

He added: "We're protecting Germany, France and everybody. this has been going on for decades".

When asked if Putin was a friend or foe, Trump replied, "I really can't say right now - as far as I'm concerned, a competitor".

His stance earned him a summit eve rebuke by EU President Donald Tusk who said that Trump should "appreciate" his allies and that the United States didn't have many.

But remarks in which he seemed to overstate by a factor of three Berlin's reliance on Russian energy and said that "Germany is totally controlled by Russia" drew a tart riposte from German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she arrived later at the summit.

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"I think that getting along with Russian Federation, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing", Trump said.

Many US presidents have urged European governments to spend more on their militaries.

"It's certainly going to be an interesting time with NATO", Trump told journalists.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen dismissed the president's claim. For years, countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, Canada, and others have not even come close to meeting their obligations to the collective defense alliance.

"So I think the secretary-general likes Trump. Who would think?" he told reporters.

Despite Russia's aggressive moves in Ukraine and confirmed election meddling in the USA, the president wouldn't say if Putin was friend or foe.

Mr Trump predicted as he departed Washington that the "easiest" leg of his journey would be his scheduled sit-down with Mr Putin.

Donald Trump speaks to media before leaving the White House for Europe.

Responding to Trump's recent criticism - or perhaps anticipating more - European Council President Donald Tusk offered a rebuttal ahead of Trump's arrival on European soil.

The NATO summit is also being attended by leaders of so-called NATO partner states that are not members of the alliance.

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