(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump says he’s reducing the number of U.S. troops in Germany because the country doesn’t spend enough on defense and supports a pipeline project with Russia.
Trump spoke Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the first political rally he’s held since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the U.S.
“We’re supposed to protect Germany from Russia, but Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for energy coming from a pipeline, brand new pipeline,” Trump said. “Excuse me, how does that work?”
The U.S. has pressured Germany to abandon the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is owned by Russia’s Gazprom PJSC, but has conceded it likely won’t be able to block it. The company is pressing ahead with construction.
Trump had earlier recalled a dispute with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her country’s defense spending, urging here to meet the 2% target for members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“They’re delinquent, for many years they’re delinquent,” Trump said. “They say ‘yes, we think by 2030, maybe 2032, we could get current.’ I said ‘no, Angela, Angela please, don’t say that Angela.’ It’s true.”
He referred to Merkel as a “very good negotiator” but indicated he wants her to both raise defense spending and account retroactively for shortages in previous years.
“They forget about all the money that wasn’t paid, I said what about the trillion dollars that you really owe,” he said. “So, we’re negotiating. Let’s see.”
Merkel’s defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said in November that Germany wouldn’t meet the NATO benchmark until 2031 because of a lack of military personnel.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.