German defense minister: Trump has ‘no strategy’ for dealing with Putin
Germany’s defense minister unloaded sharp criticism of President Trump’s relationship with Russia and its government, saying Trump has “no recognizable strategy” for dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ursula von der Leyen condemned Trump in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, saying that the meeting earlier this month between Trump and Putin left European allies in the dark. The content of the two leaders’ discussions at the Helsinki summit remain largely unknown.
“There is no recognizable strategy in the president’s approach to Russia,” she said, according to a translation published in The Local, adding that “the problem with Helsinki is that nobody knows what was discussed or even agreed.”
Von der Leyen expressed interest in Germany pursuing a closer relationship with Russia, but cautioned that it was up to Putin’s government to prove itself a trusted ally.
“We of course want better relationships with Moscow, but the ball is in the Kremlin’s court in that regard,” she said.
The German politician went on to suggest that Trump’s reportedly cold relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel resulted not from policy differences, but from the president being threatened by a powerful woman.
“A woman like Angela Merkel, a globally admired head of government with many years of experience has probably not featured in his world view before,” she said.
“At the beginning, he didn’t even want to shake her hand. Now he is much more respectful.”
Trump hammered Germany and other nations earlier this month at a NATO summit in Brussels during which he called for increased spending from NATO members on defense.
Within hours of arriving at the summit, Trump criticized Merkel’s government for an oil pipeline deal the president said made Germany a “captive” of Russia.
“I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump said during a meeting with the NATO secretary-general.
“If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia because they supply,” he continued. “They got rid of their coal plants. They got rid of their nuclear. They’re getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia. I think it’s something that NATO has to look at. I think it’s very inappropriate.”