Kremlin critics at home and overseas see Trump's decision to grant Putin a summit against that backdrop as conferring worldwide legitimacy and status on Putin, something they say he doesn't deserve given the lack of meaningful change in Russia's policies internationally.
"Germany is a captive of Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia", Trump said, taking particular aim at the proposed Nord Stream II gas pipeline, which he has previously criticised. "So we're supposed to protect Germany, but they're getting their energy from Russian Federation".
This is European Council President Donald Tusk. The United States pays about 67 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, more than any other nation, although only 3.5 percent is NATO-related. There isn't a penalty for not meeting it, but Trump has repeatedly castigated Germany in particular for not spending enough, in his view, on defense.
Asked about Mr Trump's suggestion, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he would focus on what has been agreed to. "But other presidents never did anything about it because I don't think they'd up it or wanted to get involved", Trump said.
He tweeted from the summit: "What good is North Atlantic Treaty Organisation if Germany is paying Russian Federation billions of dollars for gas and energy?"
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"But I have to bring it up because I think it's very unfair to our country, it's very unfair to our taxpayer", he said.
In a bilateral breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in front of reporters, Trump immediately launched into a tirade about the pipeline.
"President Trump makes public adversaries out of our friends, and turns our adversary, who has been attacking America's democracy, into his fawned-over ally".
"We do have disagreements, but most importantly, we have decisions that are pushing this alliance forward and making us stronger", Stoltenberg said.
Trump's words about the upcoming Putin meeting contrasted sharply with the way in which he assailed Germany as he arrived in Brussels.
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Merkel told reporters on arrival in Brussels on Wednesday, "I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union".
Kerry responded with a lengthy statement Wednesday, calling Trump's missives against United States allies "disgraceful" and "destructive". She said Germany was "good partners" with the U.S.
"It's an attitude that long term for the German-American relationship is anything but helpful", lawmaker Rolf Muetzenich, a foreign affairs expert with Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition Social Democrats, told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. "If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russian Federation, because they supply...they got rid of their coal plants, got rid of their nuclear, they're getting so much of the oil and gas from Russian Federation".
"We're paying for anywhere from 70 to 90 percent to protect Europe, and that's fine.""He diminishes alliances we built to safeguard an economic and strategic force that has allowed millions of people to live in freedom", Kerry continued.
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