Europe 'can't completely rely on White House,' says German foreign minister

War of words grows between allies

By JUDITH VONBERG, CNN
Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

(CNN) - Germany's foreign minister said Monday that the European Union could "no longer completely rely on the White House," echoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's veiled criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump a year ago and amplifying a war of words between the two allies.

Heiko Maas' comments came a few hours after Trump described the European Union as a "foe" that has "taken advantage" of the U.S. over trade and NATO, and on the same day as a bilateral summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview with the Funke media group, the Social Democrat politician said the U.S. President's statement on the EU "unfortunately shows once again how wide the political Atlantic has become since Donald Trump has been in office."

The EU's relationship with the U.S. must change if it is to continue, Maas said, insisting that this could be achieved only with a "self-confident and sovereign Europe."

He urged Europe to close ranks and avoid divisions, even when faced with what he described as "absurd" tweets from Trump.

"We can no longer completely rely on the White House," Maas said.

At a campaign rally last May, four months into Trump's tenure, Merkel made a similar point, without referring directly to the U.S.

"The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over," she said, making clear that the realization had come "in the last few days," -- days that saw a G-7 meeting where Trump blasted his European allies over NATO obligations and made clear that he was willing to act alone on climate change and trade.

Maas' comments Monday signal a continuing deterioration of U.S.-German relations. The latest spiral was triggered by Trump's accusation that Germany is a "captive" of Russia because of its reliance on the oil-rich state for energy supplies, and propelled further by his repeated criticism of a planned oil pipeline to Germany during his trip to Brussels and London last week.

Speaking to Germany's BILD newspaper Sunday, Maas warned Trump against making any unilateral deals with Putin at the summit Monday, while welcoming the prospect of dialogue between Washington and Moscow.

"He who offends his partners risks losing in the end," he said.

It is not the first time Maas has spoken critically of the U.S. President. At an event in Berlin last May, the then-justice minister described the U.S. as "incapacitated" in both domestic and foreign policy and said he welcomed the grassroots opposition that had arisen in the U.S. in response to Trump's election victory.

In June this year, three months into his tenure as foreign minister, Maas gave an interview to Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung in which he strongly criticized Trump's decisions to renege on the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear treaty, the negative effects of which would directly affect Europe, Maas said.

Trump's "America first" doctrine is damaging, he said: "Nothing in that will make the world better, more secure or more peaceful," he said.

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