Trump Changes Tone in Merkel Meeting After Earlier Slamming Germany

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan are seen at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Wednesday. (Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via Reuters)

President Donald Trump said he had a “great meeting” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a NATO summit on Wednesday, hours after he fiercely criticized German policy on defense spending and gas imports from Russia.

The tone of their remarks contrasted with an earlier breakfast between Trump and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, when the Republican president said Germany’s reliance on Russian energy left it “in the control” of Moscow and Merkel later referred to her youth in Soviet-run East Germany to insist Berlin was now fully sovereign.

“We’re having a great meeting. We’re discussing military expenditure … talking about trade,” Trump told reporters who were allowed in to the meeting room.

“We have a very, very good relationship with the chancellor. We have a tremendous relationship with Germany,” he added, saying he had raised his concerns about a new gas pipeline planned from Russia to Germany.

Trump played up the success of the bilateral meeting and the potential to resolve issues.

“I believe that our trade will increase and lots of other things will increase, but we’ll see what happens.”

Merkel, speaking through an interpreter, said the meeting was an “opportunity to have an exchange about economic developments … and also the future of our trade relations.”

Merkel said it was very important to have such exchanges like the meeting she and Trump were having because “after all, we are partners. We are good partners, and we wish to continue to cooperate in the future.”