German Officials, Trump Exchange Criticism Ahead Of NATO Summit

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German army battle tank Leopard 2 returns after a NATO military drill in Pabrade

The prospect of Trump and Putin meeting alone has raised concern among members of the USA national security community, some of whom have fretted that Putin, who has served as either president or prime minister since 2000, will use the meeting to gain leverage over the U.S. The Washington Post reported last week that the Pentagon is assessing the cost and impact of removing U.S. forces from Germany, after Trump expressed interest in the idea.

- USA forces and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Europe serve the national interests of the United States.

Mr. Trump's political opponents in the US will be looking for any sign that the president goes easy on Mr. Putin, which they would say bolster allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Moscow to hack the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has expressed scorn for the alliance and is expected to upbraid European NATO members for not spending enough on their own defense.

A senior administration official with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly did not initially answer the question about possible troop withdrawals on a conference call with reporters.

"There are great concerns in the alliance about what agreements Trump and Putin could reach", Beyer told the Funke Mediengruppe newspapers in an interview published Saturday.

Last month, a G-7 meeting in Canada turned sour when Trump disparaged allies and refused to sign a joint statement.

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The summit will follow a NATO meeting in Brussels where Russian Federation will also top the agenda, said U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Compare that to non-NATO members facing real threats, some of which spend 5-10 percent of their GDPs on defense. All are former Soviet client states: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.

Still, Trump has repeatedly threatened to punish countries if they don't spend enough on defense, even suggesting the US may not protect them if they don't pay their fair share.

Asked about the letter, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that it was "not an isolated action" and that the wider trend of Washington lobbying for more defense spending from European allies was problematic for Moscow.

The White House declined to say if and how Trump might punish the countries.

According to Pew Research Data, more than 60,000 US troops are now stationed in Europe, including 35,000 in Germany, 12,000 in Italy, 8,500 in Britain, and 3,300 in Spain, with thousands more rotating into other European countries as needed.

Pentagon leaders canceled military exercises there at Trump's direction but they quickly reaffirmed the United State's "ironclad commitment" to defend South Korea.

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