President Trump came out swinging as expected Wednesday at the start of the NATO summit, but he went beyond his familiar criticism that nations such as Germany weren't spending enough on defense. Instead, he called attention to a proposed pipeline that would run gas under the Baltic Sea, from the Russian coast to Germany. The huge project makes Germany "captive" to Russia, Trump complained, and Merkel later bristled at the suggestion, though she didn't mention the US president. More details on the fallout and the pipeline itself:
- One on one: After the initial public comments, Trump and Merkel met one on one and emerged with much nicer diplo-speak. Trump described his relationship with the chancellor as "very, very good" and "tremendous," report the Wall Street Journal and the BBC, while Merkel said, "We are good partners and we wish to continue to cooperate in the future.” Democrats including Chuck Schumer blasted Trump's original marks, notes the Washington Post. "An embarrassment," said Schumer.
- The pipeline: The Washington Post has a nice explainer on the 800-mile-long Nord Stream 2 project, which could be in place next year. In broad terms, Europe is running out of its own gas resources and becoming more and more dependent on imports, especially from Russia. The US is worried that the pipeline will exacerbate that, providing Moscow not just with huge sums of money but too much influence over Europe because of its ability to control the flow to different countries. The US also wants a piece of the market.
- Doubling up: Trump has long complained that other NATO members aren't meeting the goal of contributing 2% of their GDP to the alliance. At the summit Wednesday, he said allies should actually double the goal to 4%, reports Bloomberg.
- Deflection? The New York Times notes that the pipeline is a sensitive topic throughout Europe, for both security and environmental reasons. The story wonders whether Trump raised the issue to deflect criticism that he is too cozy himself with Vladimir Putin.
- Weak spot: In his original comments, Trump also accused Germany of spending too little on defense, which Business Insider explains is a "weak spot" for Merkel. Germany's military commitments to NATO are "unpopular domestically, and she is already struggling to stay atop a shaky coalition government."
- Striking image: Quartz takes note of a group photo of the NATO leaders in which virtually all of them are looking to their left—except Trump, looking to his right. "It's an almost too perfect symbol for the tenor of the meeting," writes Johnny Simon. (It's a Getty image and not available in the photo gallery, but click on the Quartz link to see it.)
- First lady: Her husband may have been critiquing allies, but first lady Melania Trump happily mingled with 10 other NATO spouses at an event, and CNN has the details.
(Read more Angela Merkel