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European allies brace for Trump's impact

President Trump.
Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Donald Trump, in a "startling public outburst" at the U.S. chief of mission residence here in Belgium ahead of the NATO summit, said "Germany is a captive of Russia" and "totally controlled by Russia” because of energy purchases.

Between the lines: The gas pipeline is something Trump has been complaining bitterly about for months.

  • He views it as one of Angela Merkel's vulnerabilities, and he fully intends to hammer it at the NATO summit.
  • Sources who've spoken to Trump about the Nord Stream gas pipeline say he has two chief complaints: 1. He wants Germany to buy American gas, not Russian gas. 2. He views Merkel as a hypocrite — always lecturing him about the "rules-based international system," and yet, in Trump's mind, not spending enough on Germany's defense, while sucking up to Iran and Russia.

Earlier in London, I spoke with a former British government official who’s familiar with the planning for Trump’s upcoming visit to England and Scotland:

  • “This is about making Trump feel good about Britain. [A planned visit to] Blenheim [Palace] is about flattering him by association with Winston Churchill — Trump feels he’s a latter day Churchill. And of course he and Melania will be thrilled to have tea with the Queen."
  • “Outcomes ... With this guy, you don’t really expect the usual intensive staff work to produce a significant policy statement. ... It’s about politics, relationships and impressions."
  • "For the Brits, it will be about showing that there’s a great life after Brexit. This week especially, [Prime Minister] Theresa May will be grateful for some nice, touchy-feely remarks from Trump about Brexit and life after Brexit."

Be smart: It looks like the U.K. visit will need to achieve rapid corrective surgery after combative Trump appearances at NATO.

  • Whether she likes it or not, Theresa May is Trump’s bridge between NATO and Vladimir Putin, with whom he meets Mondayin Helsinki.
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