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President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel put a brave face on the taking place on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday.
Leading up to the meeting, Trump took several opportunities to criticize Berlin for its low level of spending on defense, despite a 2014 voluntary commitment to raise the number to at least 2 percent of German gross domestic product (GDP).
On Wednesday morning, Trump went in a new direction, accusing Germany of being “captive to Russia” because of its support for an offshore pipeline carrying Russian natural gas to the European Union market through the Baltic Sea.
Merkel responded, stating that Germany made “independent policies” and noting that Germany is the second largest provider of troops to NATO.
The pair then met behind closed doors and emerged to briefly address reporters with warmer words of mutual support, albeit delivered in a perfunctory manner.
Trump spoke first, claiming that the relationship between the two leaders remained positive.
“We're having a great meeting. We're discussing military expenditure... talking about trade, " he said, before suggesting that more trade could be agreed in the future.
“We have a very, very good relationship with the chancellor. We have a tremendous relationship with Germany, " he added.
Merkel, speaking through a translator, stressed that she was happy to have had an exchange of views.
The German leader added that apart from migration and trade, they had discussed “very briefly” Trump’s upcoming trips to the United Kingdom and Finland, where he is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Merkel finished by saying she looked forward to future meetings because “after all, we are partners.”