Trump praises Merkel at summit hours after he ripped Germany

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said flatly that he agreed "no increase in spending" beyond that previously agreed by Rome, which previous year spent 1.1 percent on defence and is labouring under heavy debts that severely limit its options. "NATO is as vital today as it ever has been and our commitment to it remains steadfast". The U.S. provides 70 percent of NATO's budget.

The tough rhetoric against a core ally comes just days before Trump is set to meet one-on-one with Putin in Finland.

In a series of tweets from Brussels, Trump said "Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russian Federation".

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a news conference after participating in the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium July 12, 2018.

"Fair burden-sharing underpins everything that we do".

"The fact is that we have a commitment to increase defense spending".

In 2017, the alliance saw its biggest increase in defense spending "in a generation", he said, signaling to his aggrieved ally in the White House that "we see that all Allies have started to increase defense spending based on the national plans we have agreed to develop previous year".

Credit for those added billions is being claimed fully by the USA president.

"There is a great collegial atmosphere in that room, that I don't think they've had for many years".

"I brought it up, no one brought it up but me. Failure to do so would be a serious indictment of his stewardship of American leadership in the world".

The US State Department issued a statement Wednesday warning European companies against investing in Russia's Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

After a seemingly tense bilateral meeting with her USA counterpart, German Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined her country's commitment to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Trump had spent his time in Brussels berating members of the military alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defence, accusing Europe of freeloading off the US and raising doubts about whether he would come to members' defence if they were attacked.

"It's very important that we have these exchanges together because we are partners, we are good partners and we wish to continue to cooperate in the future", she told reporters. "Because I said it was unfair".

Speaking to reporters before departing the White House for the meetings in Europe, Trump said, "Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all". "It's very detailed", Macron said, according to the AP. The UK announced on Wednesday, July 11, 2018, that it would almost double the number of troops it deploys to Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Monday, promised support for President Ashraf Ghani's bid to start peace talks with the Taliban and repeated the United States would be willing to take part.

Before departing for England on Thursday, Trump signed a joint declaration that reaffirmed America's role in the alliance. Ukraine is attending the Brussels summit and further discussions are due to take place Thursday.

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