President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, shifted in his seat and despondently looked away as Trump called Germany a “captive” of Russia. However, the White House claims that Kelly’s expression was due to his disappointment with the catering at the NATO meeting, and not Trump’s talking points.
Trump’s habit of railing against his European allies at every opportunity has, so far, been discordant with some of his administration’s policies, as U.S. defense funding for NATO has continued to increase.
As Trump opted to use his breakfast with NATO’s leadership to gripe about Germany’s energy ties to Russia, Kelly’s grimacing and fidgeting prompted suspicions he did not share Trump’s views.
When asked about the footage, Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Kelly was simply “displeased because he was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese,” the Washington Post reported.
Trump’s comments that Germany risks being “totally controlled by Russia” as a result of the construction of a pipeline under the Baltic Sea touched on an existing cause of division among European countries.
“NATO is an alliance of 29 nations and there are sometimes differences and different views and all sorts of disagreements,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “The strength of NATO is that despite these differences, we have always been able to unite around our core task, to protect and defend each other, because we understand that we are stronger together than apart.”
Trump repeatedly protested as Stoltenberg tried to underline his key message that, as NATO allies, “we stand together” on dealing with Russia. The U.S. president cut in, seemingly excluding himself from that equation saying: “No, you’re just making Russia richer. You’re not dealing with Russia. You’re making Russia richer.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany under Moscow’s control, appeared to take issue with Trump’s comments. “I experienced, in person, that part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union,” Merkel said, harking back to her childhood in Templin before Germany’s reunification in 1989, Deutsche Welle reported.
“I am very happy that today we are united in freedom… and that we can therefore also say that we conduct independent policies and can take independent decisions.”
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The summit then took another puzzling turn as Trump met with Merkel and told reporters: “We are having a great meeting. We are discussing military expenditure, and we are talking about trade. We have a very, very good relationship.”