President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have met after the USA leader publicly lambasted the longtime ally over its spending on national defense and a Russian oil pipeline.
"I have to say, I think it's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we're supposed to be guarding against Russia", Trump said during a breakfast with Stoltenberg, his first event since arriving in Brussels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the project is merely commercial, but the US and other European Union members believe the pipeline could be a geopolitical incursion by Russian Federation.
With tensions in the Western defence alliance already running high over Trump's demands for more contributions to ease the burden on United States taxpayers, and a nationalistic stance that has seen trade disputes threaten economic growth in Europe, the latest remarks will fuel concerns among allies over the United States role in keeping the peace that has reigned since World War Two.
Trump took issue with Nord Stream 2, a new $11-billion pipeline to bring Russian gas across the Baltic Sea that Berlin has supported despite qualms from other European Union states.
Mr Trump has been pressing member countries to spend more on defence, accusing them of passing the burden on to the US.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen dismissed Trump's comments, saying Germany is not captive to Russian Federation and the country can take Trump's criticisms in stride. That is more than current US spending as a proportion of GDP - and Pentagon budgets maintain bases and deploy fleets around the world, something that shouldn't be expected from Estonia or Spain.
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"Explain that", Trump said.
With Trump's much-anticipated summit with Putin just five days away, Stoltenberg appeared to get in a shot of his own, telling Trump other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders are "looking forward to your thoughts about the meeting with President Putin later on".
Not all are on track to meet the 2 percent pledge, and Germany is particularly remiss, though it has beefed up spending by billions of dollars.
"Last year was the biggest increase in defense spending across Europe and Canada in that generation", he added. "I just don't want us to be too friendly with them like he was with Kim Jong Un, although I supported that summit", Richardson said.
Around eight members of the 29-country alliance are expected to reach the 2% target this year.
With tensions in the Western alliance running high over Trump's trade tariffs on European steel and his demands for more contributions to ease the burden on US taxpayers, the latest remarks fuelled concerns among allies over the USA role in keeping the peace that has reigned since World War II.