On President Trump’s recent visit to NATO he was especially critical of Germany’s relationship with Russia and their failure to contribute more to the alliance. NATO was formed to prevent Soviet aggression in Western Europe and the U.S. is the major financial contributor. The following background may help to explain why he was so critical of Germany’s actions.
When Gerhard Schroeder was chancellor of Germany, President Putin orchestrated a deal to construct the longest underwater natural gas pipeline in the world, connecting terminals in Russia directly to those in Germany via the Baltic Sea. The project, which became known as Nord Stream, would bypass the old Soviet pipeline network through Ukraine, Belarus and Poland, giving the Kremlin leverage in negotiations over transit fees in those countries and increasing Europe’s dependence on Russia. During his recent exploits in Ukraine and Crimea, Putin used that leverage and doubled transit fees to Ukraine in retaliation for their resistance to Russian incursions.
While still in office, Schroeder had blessed the Nord Stream project with a secret loan guarantee worth 1 billion euros and, just after he left office, Putin named him chairman of the shareholders committee of the new subsidiary that would build Nord Stream. So now Germany, like the Ukraine, will be dependent on Russia for its supply of natural gas, a major source of energy for the country. Putin will be able to raise the price of natural gas or completely turn off the spigot at will. The U.S. has been against Nord Stream from its inception and has offered to supply Germany with liquid petroleum gas, but without success.
As President Trump sees it, a portion of the money the U.S. sends to Europe to support NATO and deter Russian aggression is going indirectly from our pocket into the pocket of the Russians via Nord Stream and he rightly doesn’t like it.