Trump slams Germany after volley of criticism

BERLIN • Mr Donald Trump has slammed Germany for its trade surplus and military spending levels, a day after Germany unleashed a volley of criticism against the United States President for his "short-sighted" policies that have "weakened the West".

The sharp words from German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Monday came after Mr Trump concluded his first official tour abroad, which took him to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Brussels and then Italy for a Group of Seven summit.

They followed Chancellor Angela Merkel's warning last Sunday that the US and Britain may no longer be completely reliable partners.

Germany's exasperation was laid bare after the G-7 summit, which wrapped up last Saturday with the US refusing to sign up to upholding the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Days earlier, in Saudi Arabia, Mr Trump presided over the single largest US arms deal in American history, worth US$110 billion (S$152.5 billion) over the next decade and including ships, tanks and anti-missile systems.

Mr Gabriel said on Monday that "anyone who accelerates climate change by weakening environmental protection, who sells more weapons in conflict zones and who does not want to politically resolve religious conflicts is putting peace in Europe at risk".

"The short-sighted policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union... We Europeans must fight for more climate protection, fewer weapons and against religious (fanaticism), otherwise the Middle East and Africa will be further destabilised."

Mr Trump ratcheted up the dispute with Germany in a tweet yesterday. "We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change," he wrote.

Germany's harsh words for Washington, traditionally a close ally, were highly unusual and came as relations have grown increasingly frosty.

When Mr Trump was inaugurated in January, Dr Merkel told the billionaire and former reality TV show star that cooperation would be on the basis of shared democratic values.

The relationship between Dr Merkel and Mr Trump contrasts with the warm ties between her and former US president Barack Obama, who last week travelled to Berlin to attend a key Protestant conference. Mr Obama's participation in a forum with Dr Merkel last Thursday came hours before her meeting with Mr Trump in Brussels at the Nato summit.

At the alliance's meeting on Thursday, Mr Trump lambasted 23 of the alliance's 28 members - including Germany - for "still not paying what they should be paying" towards the bloc's funding.

After the Nato and G-7 summits, Dr Merkel said at an election rally in southern Germany that "the times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I've experienced that in the last few days".

In response to Dr Merkel's comments, Britain said it would be a "strong partner" to Germany.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Trump slams Germany after volley of criticism'. Print Edition | Subscribe