After Trump's spending demands, NATO summit turns to Afghanistan

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. First Lady Melania Trump attend the evening reception and dinner at the 2018 NATO Summit

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the summit that Trump will have "pull-aside" meetings later in the day with Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

In a bid to avoid a row, Stoltenberg replied: "Nato is an alliance of 29 nations and there are sometimes differences..."

"Trump at NATO Summit: It's not just bad, it's a catastrophe", the influential Sueddeutsche Zeitung headlined its story online.

And he said: "Dear America, appreciate your allies - after all you don't have that many".

British Prime Minister Theresa May tried to set the tone on Wednesday by announcing more troops for NATO's Afghan training mission.

THE FACTS: There is no such debt to the US or to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg later told reporters that Trump had used "very direct language" but that all NATO allies were agreed that the cost of defence spending must be spread around and that a year ago had seen the biggest increase in a generation.

"The fact that a Putin-Trump meeting will happen says only one thing: that for all its hysteria, the United States is not able to isolate or ignore Russia", said Alexei Pushkov, a prominent Russian senator from the ruling United Russia party.

The US president was similarly effusive when he met German chancellor Angela Merkel. "If we look at the gas pipeline, Germany is an independent country".

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"I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union", Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, told reporters.

"We're paying for anywhere from 70 to 90 percent to protect Europe, and that's fine."

The acknowledgement came during a pre-dinner interlude in Trump's long summit day.

Expectations are high in Russian Federation that Putin, with more than 18 years of global experience, will have the edge on Trump, who had not held elected office before he was inaugurated last year.

"NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is sidestepping questions about whether President Donald Trump has asked his allies to double their defence spending ambitions". According to Stoltenberg, eight countries would meet the 2 percent target this year and a "majority" put forward plans to do so by 2020 - compared to only three countries who were meeting the commitment in 2014. He later returned to ripping Germany, explaining the country is "captive to Russian Federation". "I think that is very inappropriate", Trump said.

"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".

At the same time, despite his criticism of the pipeline and its links to Russia, Trump has been noncommittal in recent comments about whether he might lift USA sanctions on Russia, and told reporters he'd "have to see" whether the US might recognize Crimea to be part of Russia.

While Canada spends less than some, it has the best equipment interoperability in the alliance - meaning it's a reliable partner for the US on missions overseas, he said. "We're protecting everybody", he said.

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