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Most Germans think Europe can defend itself without U.S. help: poll

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump are seen as they pose for a photo at the start of the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - More than half of Germans think Europe can defend itself without military backing from the United States, a poll showed on Monday, less than two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump said he could withdraw support.

Only 37 percent of respondents said they believed Europe depended on U.S. military help, the Forsa poll showed.

The survey found no significant difference between eastern German regions and western areas, which have stronger historical ties to the United States. In the east, 60 percent thought Europe did not need Washington, and in the west, 55 percent.

Trump gave an ultimatum to European allies on July 12, warning a NATO summit the United States could withdraw its support if Europe did not share more of what he called an unfair burden on U.S. taxpayers in funding the alliance.

In a rebuke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he also called Germany a “captive” of Moscow because, he said, Berlin supported a Baltic Sea gas pipeline from Russia.

About 84 percent of respondents said Trump’s comments about Russia controlling Germany were “completely absurd”, according to the poll which surveyed 1,004 Germans.

Even more - 92 percent - said they suspected that Trump’s motive for making the comments was primarily to promote the sale of U.S. liquefied gas in Europe and Germany.

Two thirds said they supported the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline because it would help provide Germany with a more reliable supply of natural gas.

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Andrew Heavens