Trump’s insults distract from valid concerns about German dependence on Russian energy: Ex-NATO ambassador

Donald Trump at the first work session of the North Atlantic council at the NATO Summit, July 11, 2018. 

Bernd von Jutrczenka | picture alliance | Getty Images

Donald Trump at the first work session of the North Atlantic council at the NATO Summit, July 11, 2018. 

“It’s a mistake by the Germans to enter into this long-term [pipeline] arrangement by the Russians,” said Burns, also a former advisor to Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

However, Trump would “do better to lower the decibel levels in public,” Burns said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “Of course you want to have that argument with Merkel behind the scenes. The question is do you want to embarrass Merkel publicly and consistently go after her. The president has been going after her publicly on the immigration issue for a couple of weeks now. She’s your leading economic partner here in Europe. She leads the strongest country in Europe.”

“Telling it like it is, I know it has some charm for some people,” he added. “Frankly, I’d rather have an effective president. And right now, he doesn’t look very effective.”

Trump on Wednesday also called out Germany for “paying a little bit over 1 percent” on defense,” saying that’s “inappropriate also.”

Burns, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, said, “Trump is right to push this issue of defense budgets because Europeans do need to spend more, particularly Germany, on their national defense.”

The NATO alliance consists of 29 countries from North America and Europe, including the U.S. and Germany, which was originally set up in 1949 to thwart Soviet aggression in Western Europe.

As a check against Russia, the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine by Moscow has been a concern of NATO.

After meeting with embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May in London and a golf weekend at a Trump-owned course in Scotland, the president travels to Helsinki for next week’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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