What US President Donald Trump thinks about Germany

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

The good, the bad and the ugly

US President Donald Trump has offered both candid praise and unabashed criticism of Germany and its policies. From calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel "possibly the greatest world leader" to describing her open-door refugee policy as a "catastrophic mistake," here are his most memorable quotes regarding Germany.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Greatest'

"Germany's like sitting back silent, collecting money and making a fortune with probably the greatest leader in the world today, Merkel," Trump said in a 2015 interview with US news magazine Time.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Very bad'

"The Germans are bad, very bad ... Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible. We'll stop that," Trump said during a NATO leaders summit, according to German news magazine Der Spiegel, which cited sources at the alliance's meeting.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Something in common'

"As far as wiretapping, I guess, by - you know - [the Obama] administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps," Trump said in March during a press conference with Merkel. He was referring to his unproven allegations that ex-President Barack Obama tapped his phone. There was widespread anger in Germany in 2013 when it was revealed the US National Security Agency tapped Merkel's phone.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Illegals'

"I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals (sic), you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from," Trump said in a joint interview published by German daily Bild and British newspaper The Times, referring to Merkel's open-door policy for refugees fleeing war and persecution.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Germany owes vast sums of money'

"Despite what you have heard from the fake news, I had a great meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO and the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany," Trump said in a two-tweet statement after meeting with Merkel for the first time in March 2017.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Turning their backs'

"The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition," Trump tweeted in the midst of a row within the German goverment. He went on to claim that: "Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!"

The US president has offered an extensive array of praise and criticism of Germany and its leader. From the "greatest" to "catastrophic mistake," DW examines Donald Trump's statements about Germany.

Before he hit the campaign trail, US President Donald Trump was dishing out both praise and criticism for Germany and its head of government, Chancellor Angela Merkel. However, since he took the reins in the White House in January, he has increasingly targeted the US ally and its policies.

Trump on Thursday reportedly condemned Germany's trade surplus with the US during a NATO summit for the alliance's political leaders.

"The Germans are bad, very bad," Trump said, according to German news magazine Der Spiegel, citing sources at the meeting of NATO leaders. "Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible. We'll stop that."

Now live
01:03 mins.
Web-videos | 26.05.2017

‘Germans are bad, very bad’

Although European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attempted to back peddle Trump's remarks on Friday by saying they were "not true," Trump's administration has singled out Germany for its trade policy.

Politics | 26.05.2017

Merkel 'probably the greatest' or 'ruining Germany'

But Trump's views on Germany haven't always been so negative in nature. Back in 2013, Trump took to Twitter, his preferred social media platform, to praise Merkel, the country's first female chancellor.

"Angela Merkel is doing a fantastic job as the chancellor of Germany. Youth unemployment is at a record low and she has a budget surplus," Trump said in a tweet.

In August 2015, getting in a dig at then-US President Barack Obama, Trump told American news weekly Time that Merkel was "probably the greatest leader in the world today." Four months later his tone shifted.

Following the announcement in December 2015 that Time magazine named Merkel as its "Person of the Year," a prestigious albeit symbolic honor for greatly influencing world affairs, Trump lambasted the decision.

"I told you Time magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favorite. They picked (the) person who is ruining Germany," Trump said in a tweet published directly after the announcement.

The magazine said it awarded Merkel the title for her "steadfast moral leadership" in handling the European migration crisis and Greek debt crisis of 2015. The following year, Trump was dubbed Time's "Person of the Year" for "reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it."

'Catastrophic mistake'

Trump, known for his targeted migration policies, has also lashed out at Merkel's open-door policy for refugees, most notably in a wide-ranging interview published jointly by German daily Bild and British newspaper The Times.

"I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals (sic), you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from," Trump said. "And nobody even knows where they come from. So I think she made a catastrophic mistake, very bad mistake."

Under Merkel's open-door policy, more than 1 million migrants have entered Germany since 2015, many of them fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

That year, Merkel addressed German citizens during her traditional summer press conference, saying "we can do this," in reference to handling the influx of migrants.

On the other hand, Trump has attempted to forcefully implement a travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries and build a border wall to prevent unauthorized migration from Mexico, but that policy has been blocked by US courts.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Fleeing war and poverty

In late 2014, with the war in Syria approaching its fourth year and Islamic State making gains in the north of the country, the exodus of Syrians intensified. At the same time, others were fleeing violence and poverty in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Niger and Kosovo.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Seeking refuge over the border

Vast numbers of Syrian refugees had been gathering in border-town camps in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan since 2011. By 2015, with the camps full to bursting and residents often unable to find work or educate their children, more and more people decided to seek asylum further afield.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

A long journey on foot

In 2015 an estimated 1.5 million people made their way on foot from Greece towards western Europe via the "Balkan route". The Schengen Agreement, which allows passport-free travel within much of the EU, was called into question as refugees headed towards the wealthier European nations.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Desperate sea crossings

Tens of thousands of refugees were also attempting the perilous journey across the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats. In April 2015, 800 people of various nationalities drowned when a boat traveling from Libya capsized off the Italian coast. This was to be just one of many similar tragedies - by the end of the year, nearly 4,000 refugees were reported to have died attempting the crossing.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Pressure on the borders

Countries along the EU's external border struggled to cope with the sheer number of arrivals. Fences were erected in Hungary, Slovenia, Macedonia and Austria. Asylum laws were tightened and several Schengen area countries introduced temporary border controls.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Closing the open door

Critics of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's "open-door" refugee policy claimed it had made the situation worse by encouraging more people to embark on the dangerous journey to Europe. By September 2016, Germany had also introduced temporary checks on its border with Austria.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

Striking a deal with Turkey

In early 2016, the EU and Turkey signed an agreement under which refugees arriving in Greece could be sent back to Turkey. The deal has been criticized by human rights groups and came under new strain following a vote by the European Parliament in November to freeze talks on Turkey's potential accession to the EU.

How did Europe's refugee crisis start?

No end in sight

With anti-immigration sentiment in Europe growing, governments are still struggling to reach a consensus on how to handle the continuing refugee crisis. Attempts to introduce quotas for the distribution of refugees among EU member states have largely failed. Conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere show no signs coming to an end, and the death toll from refugee sea crossings is on the rise.

'Owes vast sums of money'

In March, Merkel embarked on her first official visit to the United States during the Trump's administration. During the trip, Trump failed to shake Merkel's hand in the Oval Office during a photo opportunity, even after a photographer requested it and the chancellor reiterated the solicitation.

Trump reportedly gave Merkel a bill for more $300 million (277.6 million euros) for Berlin's failure to meet NATO's defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP since 2002. The White House later denied the incident occurred.

"Despite what you have heard from the fake news, I had a great meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO and the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany," Trump said in a two-tweet statement following the meeting with Merkel.

The president has pushed for increased defense spending across the transatlantic alliance, consistently levying his country's position as the largest spender on military expenditure to coerce member states, including Germany, into meeting the NATO target of 2 percent of GDP. He most recently made the case on Thursday at a NATO summit during the unveiling of a memorial to victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen denied that Germany owed money, saying "there is not account where debts are registered with NATO." Under an agreement made in Wales in 2014, NATO member states have until 2024 to meet the defense spending target.

'Something in common, perhaps'

Although Trump's remarks on Germany and Merkel have notably been driven by sharp criticism since he took office, he did offer a remark that suggested a commonality between the two leaders during a press conference with Merkel.

"As far as wiretapping, I guess, by - you know - this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps," Trump said during the press conference in March, referring to unsubstantiated allegations he made against former US President Barack Obama.

In a series of tweets, Trump claimed that "President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to [the US presidential] election." Authorities, including at the FBI, have said there is no evidence of Trump's claims.

In 2013, it was revealed that the US National Security Agency spied on Merkel's mobile phone, leading to a dip in US-German relations. However, German prosecutors closed their investigation in 2015, saying they were unable to find evidence that would stand up in court.

Whether candid praise or unabashed disapproval, Germany and its leader have always known exactly where they stand with Trump.

Trump's NATO debut does little to assure allies

America first!

US President Donald Trump welcomes Montenegro to the military alliance by appearing to shove Prime Minister Dusko Markovic in order to secure a front row berth. Montenegro will formally join NATO next month, although it may already feel pressured to increase its military spending, which currently stands at 1.6 percent of GDP.

Trump's NATO debut does little to assure allies

Trump berates allies' spending

The president was invited to unveil NATO's new 9/11 memorial. However, instead of using his speech to play up unity, Trump scolded allies for owing "massive amounts of money" to the US and NATO. Members have set a 2 percent of GDP defense spending "guideline," although the contributions are supposed to be voluntary.

Trump's NATO debut does little to assure allies

Leaders struggle to keep a straight face

Trump's 10-minute tirade on defense spending appeared to be greeted with snickering and eye-rolling. An illustration of America's new standing in the world?

Trump's NATO debut does little to assure allies

Slamming the brakes on German car sales

Leaked comments obtained by German media reveal that Trump told European leaders that Germany was being unfair with its trade arrangements and decried its surplus. "The Germans are bad, very bad," German weekly Der Spiegel quoted Trump as saying. "Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible! We'll stop that."

Trump's NATO debut does little to assure allies

Handshake diplomacy

Trump met with France's newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, at the US ambassador's Brussels residence. As a life-long businessman, Trump's handshakes are seen as one of his key power moves. Palms dried and jaws clenched, Macron didn't appear prepared to grant him that victory as the leaders embarked on what's been coined "the world's longest handshake."

Trump's NATO debut does little to assure allies

Not-so-special relationship

British Prime Minister Theresa May is reported to have voiced her anger and dismay after US officials leaked details over the identity of the Manchester suicide bomber. The leak led British authorities to halt intelligence-sharing with the US for around 24 hours. The breech also comes just weeks after Trump himself divulged secret intelligence to senior Russian emissaries.

Trump's NATO debut does little to assure allies

Glaring omission

If Trump had sought to assure allies of his commitment to NATO, neglecting to affirm Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty - which stipulates that members treat an attack against one ally as an attack against all - wouldn't have helped. Perhaps surprisingly, however, the president did mention the Russian threat on NATO's eastern border.