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Trump rails against German defense spending

May 18, 2018

US President Donald Trump says NATO members that do not meet defense-spending targets will be "dealt with." Germany is far from being on track to meet the alliance's target of 2 percent of gross domestic product.

A soldier inspecting a transport vehicle
Image: picture alliance/dpa/U. Baumgarten

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump again took aim at Germany's defense spending, saying NATO members that do not meet commitments would be "dealt with."

At a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Washington, Trump praised seven other alliance members for paying the amount that "they're supposed to be paying."

"We have some that don't," Trump said, "and, well, they'll be dealt with."

Germany, he added, "has not contributed what it should be contributing, and it's a very big beneficiary."

"In particular, Germany must demonstrate leadership in the alliance by addressing its longstanding shortfall in defense contributions," Trump said.

Read more:  Germany's lack of military readiness 'dramatic,' says Bundeswehr commissioner

Is pressure working?

The US president has repeatedly railed against Germany for falling below NATO's defense-spending commitments.

NATO agreed in 2014 that all 29 members would spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024.

In addition to the United States, only Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Greece and the United Kingdom meet the target.

Stoltenberg said Trump's "leadership on defense spending has really helped to make a difference."

"It is impacting allies because now all allies are increasing defense spending," he said. "No allies are cutting their budgets."

Read more: How does Germany contribute to NATO?

Germany falling short

Last year, Germany only spent 1.2 percent of GDP on defense. The 2018 budget envisions 1.3 percent of GDP going to defense. Despite defense spending increases expected over the coming years, Berlin will still fall far short of meeting its commitments due to economic growth.

Faced with Trump's criticism on spending in the past, German politicians have argued that other expenditures, such as on development and humanitarian aid, should be included in calculations, rather than merely the size of the defense budget.

Chancellor Angela Merkel backs plans for Germany's defense budget to eventually reach 2 percent of GDP. However, her Christian Democrats' junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, are against massive defense spending increases and demand funds be used more efficiently.

Germany's military faces multiple problems that have raised serious questions about its capabilities and readiness, which have led to calls for the defense budget to be increased.

cw/sms (dpa, Reuters)

Read more: Only 4 of Germany's 128 Eurofighter jets combat ready — report 

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