Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, speaks about immigration and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Jacquelyn Martin | AP

U.S. Sen. Angus King on Wednesday said President Donald Trump is playing into Russia’s hands as Trump lobbed fresh complaints at U.S. allies during this week’s NATO summit in Brussels.

King said during an interview on CNN’s “New Day” that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dream is “a weakening and undermining European unity and the western alliance.”

“The importance of this summit is unity in the face of newfound Russian aggression throughout Europe and the Middle East,” King said.

Trump’s meeting with NATO allies got off to a testy start Wednesday morning when he accused Germany of being “totally controlled” and “captive to Russia” as the European nation has thrown its political support behind a pipeline to bring Russian natural gas across the Baltic Sea, according to the Associated Press. The pipeline is opposed by the U.S. and some European Union nations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has insisted that the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 is a private venture not backed by German taxpayers, according to Reuters.

Trump also launched into fresh criticism of NATO allies over their military spending in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the Associated Press reported.

Trump has been pushing NATO allies to reach a target of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on national defense by 2024, accusing those who don’t of freeloading off the United States.

“The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough, especially some. So we’re going to have a meeting on that,” Trump said.

Stoltenberg said that NATO allies are on track to meet the 2024 target, crediting Trump for spurring an increase in defense spending among members last year.

King said Trump’s public criticism over defense spending at a time when it’s on the rise is “like turning a family squabble into divorce proceedings.”

King warned that disunity among NATO allies plays into the hands of Putin, who has publicly referred to the alliance as a “threat” to Russia’s national security.

“He can smell weakness. And if he sees the weakness, the disunity, between the U.S. and Europe, who knows what will happen in the Balkans for example? Are we inviting aggression? That’s the danger here,” King said.

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