German Chancellor Angela Merkel has begun talks with President Vladimir Putin on her first visit to Russia since 2015. The meeting, at Mr Putin’s summer residence in Sochi, comes with bilateral relations in a trough over the war in Syria and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. They are to discuss both issues but no breakthroughs are expected. He will then meet Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday. “Of course, we cannot but take advantage of this visit and discuss bilateral relations and the most problematic points, by which I mean Ukraine, Syria and possibly some other regions”, Putin said at the start of the talks with Mrs Merkel, quoted by Russia’s Interfax news agency.
German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday, rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim that Germany owes NATO and United States “vast sums” of money for defense. She said that there is no debt account at NATO and that defense spending goes also into UN peacekeeping missions,into European missions and into the fight against Islamic State. Trump said on Twitter on Saturday – a day after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington – that Germany “owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!” German defense spending is set to rise by 1.4 billion euros to 38.5 billion euros in 2018 – a figure that is projected to represent 1.26 percent of economic output, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said. In 2016, Germany’s defense spending ratio stood at 1.18 percent. During her trip to Washington, Merkel reiterated Germany’s commitment to the 2 percent military spending goal.