US President in the UK
• British Prime Minister Theresa May will host US President Donald Trump and Melania Trump at a dinner at Blenheim Palace this morning NZT.
• The Trumps will stay at the US ambassador's residence in London.
• Trump and May will watch a military demonstration before talks and lunch at Chequers tomorrow.
• Trump and his wife will meet the Queen at Windsor Castle and travel to Scotland for the weekend.
US President Donald Trump makes his long-debated visit to Britain amid politics, pomp and protests, having rattled the Nato summit in Belgium.
Under fire for his warm embrace of Russia's Vladimir Putin, Trump turned a spotlight on Germany's ties to Russia and openly questioned the value of the military alliance that has defined American foreign policy for decades.
He declared that a joint natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Chancellor Angela Merkel's Government "totally controlled" and "captive to Russia." In a stroke, he shifted attention away from his own ties to the Kremlin just days before he meets one-on-one with Putin.
In London, he arrives at a time of rebellion in the Tories' ranks, with Prime Minister Theresa May dealing with ministerial resignations over Brexit. Trump, who will initially stay at the American ambassador's residence in London, where he can land by helicopter, will attend a dinner with May, ministers and business leaders at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire this morning NZT.
The first of several protests over the weekend was to kick off in London today but Trump will largely avoid the capital. He will hold talks with May at the PM's country resident, Chequers, meet the Queen at Windsor Castle, and travel to a Trump golf course in Scotland.
Yesterday, the President used scorching language to question the necessity of the Nato alliance that formed a bulwark against Soviet aggression, tweeting after a day of contentious meetings: "What good is Nato if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy?"
Merkel hit back immediately, not only denying Trump's contention but suggesting that his comfortable upbringing in the US gave him no standing to spout off on the world stage about Germany.
Drawing on her own background growing up in communist East Germany, she said: "I've experienced myself a part of Germany controlled by the Soviet Union, and I'm very happy today that we are united in freedom [in] Germany and can thus say that we can determine our own policies."
Trump demanded by public tweet that members of Nato "must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025" for their military efforts. He then rattled US allies further by privately suggesting member nations should spend 4 per cent of their GDP on the military — more than even the US pays, according to Nato statistics. It was just the latest in Trump's demands and insults that critics fear will undermine the alliance.
And it came just days before Trump planned to sit down with Putin in Finland.
However, a formal summit declaration issued by the Nato leaders reaffirmed their "unwavering commitment" to the 2 per cent pledge set in 2014 and made no reference to any effort to go higher.
Trump has repeatedly mischaracterised the spending target, wrongly describing it as a fee that countries pay to Nato or the US rather than their own military. Nato estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024.
Trump has spent weeks berating members of the alliance for failing to increase military spending, accusing Europe of freeloading off the US and even raising doubts about whether he would come to members' defence as required if they were ever attacked.
Trump's tongue-lashing accelerated during a pre-summit breakfast, when he had a face-to-face confrontation with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. "We're supposed to protect you against Russia but they're paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that's very inappropriate," Trump said, repeatedly describing Germany as "captive to Russia" because of the energy deal.
Trump's harsh words for Merkel, whose country has hosted tens of thousands of US troops that have been key to post-WWII stability in Europe, struck at the core of the alliance.
The President's beef was with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to Germany's northeastern Baltic coast, doubling the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany.
The vast undersea pipeline is opposed by the US and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe.
Germany is trying to reduce its reliance on coal and is phasing out nuclear power by 2022, so it hopes to use natural gas to partially fill the gap until the country's electricity grid can cope with fluctuating levels provided by renewable energy.
Hours after the breakfast, Merkel and Trump appeared to play nice as they met. Trump said the two had a "very, very good relationship" and congratulated Merkel on her "tremendous success."