In July 2018 at the NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels, Belgium, then-President Donald Trump engaged in a heated exchange with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg over European nations, particularly Germany, engaging in energy commerce with Russia.
As Russia continues its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and as sanctions don’t appear to have deterred Russian President Vladimir Putin thus far, the clip has been making the rounds on social media.
“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 began. “So, we’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries, and then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they’re paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia.”
Trump continued, asking Stoltenberg if that was “appropriate,” and saying that Germany was “totally controlled” by Russia as a result of paying for Russian energy.
“Now, if you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia because 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,” the former president added.
Stoltenberg responded, suggesting that while there will be differences of opinion among the 29 NATO nations, they are stronger together. Trump pushed back, asking how these nations can be “together” if one is being supplied energy by another nation from which they want protection.
Stoltenberg argued that during the Cold War, nations traded with Russia, to which Trump responded that trade is different than energy, and pointed to another European nation that wasn’t accepting Russian energy.
STOLTENBERG: We look forward to the meeting you’re going to have with President Putin, and I think that leaders are also looking forward to your thoughts about the meeting with President Putin at NATO.
TRUMP: Well, 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. So, we’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries, and then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they’re paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia. So, we’re supposed to protect you against Russia, but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia, and I think that’s very inappropriate, and the former Chancellor of Germany is the head of the pipeline company that’s supplying the gas. Ultimately, Germany will have almost 70% of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas. So, you tell me: is that appropriate?
I mean, I’ve been complaining about this from the time I got in; it should have never been allowed to have happened, but Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they were getting from 60% to 70% of their energy from Russia, and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that’s appropriate because I think it’s not. And I think it’s a very bad thing for NATO, and I don’t think it should have happened, and I think we have to talk to Germany about it.
On top of that, Germany is just paying a little bit over 1%, whereas the United States in actual numbers is paying 4.2% of a much larger GDP, so I think that’s inappropriate also. You know, we’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting everybody, and yet we’re paying a lot of money to protect — now this has been going on for decades; this has been brought up by other presidents, but other presidents never did anything about it because I don’t think they understood it or they just didn’t want to get involved, but I have to bring it up because I think it’s very unfair to our country, it’s very unfair to our taxpayers, and I think that these countries have to step it up, not over a 10-year period, [they] have to step it up immediately. Germany is a rich country — they talk about they [can] increase it a tiny bit by 2030. Well, they could increase it immediately tomorrow and have no problem. I don’t think it’s fair to the United States.
So, we’re gonna have to do something because we’re not going to put up with it; we can’t put up with it, and it’s inappropriate. So, we have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country that we’re supposed to be protecting you against. You know, everybody’s talking about it all over the world. They’ll say, well, wait a minute, we’re supposed to be protecting you from Russia, but why are you paying billions of dollars to Russia for energy? Why are countries in NATO, namely Germany, having a large percentage of their energy needs paid, you know, to Russia, and taken care of by Russia.
Now, if you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia because they supply — 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. You and I agreed that it’s inappropriate. I don’t know what you can do about it now, but it certainly doesn’t seem to make sense that they paid billions of dollars to Russia and now we have to defend them against Russia.
STOLTENBERG: You know, NATO is the alliance of 29 nations, and there are sometimes differences and different views, and also some disagreements — and the gas [pipeline] from Russia to Germany is one issue where allies disagree, but the strength of NATO is that despite these differences, we have always been able to unite around our core [cause] to protect and defend each other because we understand that we are stronger together than apart. I think that two world wars and the Cold War taught us that we are stronger together than apart.
TRUMP: But how can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the person you want protection against, or from the group that you want protection [against]?
STOLTENBERG: Because you understand that when we stand together, also when dealing with Russia, we are stronger. I think what we have seen is that —
TRUMP: No, you’re just making Russia richer. You’re not dealing with Russia; you’re making Russia richer.
STOLTENBERG: I think that even during the Cold War, NATO allies were trading with Russia, then there have been disagreements about what kind of trade arrangements we should [go into]…
TRUMP: I think trade is wonderful; I think energy is a whole different story. I think energy is a much different story than normal trade, and you have a country like Poland that won’t accept the gas. You take a look at some of the countries, they won’t accept it because they don’t want to be captive to Russia — but Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia. So, we’re supposed to protect Germany, but they’re getting their energy from Russia. Explain that — and it can be explained, [you know that].