NATO TENSIONS

Defense Minister Fires Back After Trump Tweet

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen speaks to media after meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon in Arlington
Germany's defense has pushed back against Mr. Trump. Picture source: Reuters.

U.S. President Donald Trump shouldn’t expect a check to arrive from Germany any time soon.

In a sharply worded statement, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen flatly rejected Mr. Trump’s claim that Berlin owes both NATO and Washington “vast sums of money” for not meeting targets on defense spending.

“There is no debt account at NATO,” Ms. von der Leyen said.

The German defense minister said the burden for defense at NATO should be shared fairly, but said the alliance needs a modern security concept.

Though Germany falls short of the NATO requirement that members spend 2 percent of economic output on defense, Ms. von der Leyen said defense spending that technically falls outside of the alliance should also count toward the target.

“Defense spending also goes into U.N. peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against IS terrorism,” Ms. von der Leyen said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Mr. Trump had taken to Twitter on Saturday to refute criticism that his first meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel was awkward. The president wrote that he had a “great” meeting with Ms. Merkel on Friday, but then said Germany is not paying enough to NATO and the United States.

In response, the German defense minister said the burden for defense should be shared fairly, but said the Western alliance needs a modern security concept. This includes a European defense union, a modern NATO and more investment in the United Nations, she said.

Germany has already committed to increase defense spending. Berlin plans to boost its defense spending by €1.4 billion to a total of €38.5 billion through 2018, which amounts to 1.26 of the country’s economic output.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is committed to gradually increasing defense spending to 2 percent.

 

Spencer Kimball is an editor with Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: s.kimball@extern.vhb.de.

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