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German defense minister criticizes US and Turkey

October 19, 2019

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has condemned the US and Turkey for endangering the stability of the NATO alliance. She also called on Germany to be more assertive in helping solve international conflicts.

US and Turkish troops side-by-side in Syria
Image: picture-alliance/AA

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Saturday condemned the Turkish incursion into northern Syria, while questioning the reliability of the US as a strategic partner.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said that US forces withdrawing from northern Syria and leaving Kurdish forces behind would be a "devastating" long-term development for NATO.

"That sets in motion a real question about the reliability of our strongest alliance partner in the world," said Kramp-Karrenbauer at a Christian Social Union (CSU) party summit in Munich.

Directly addressing Turkey's Syria offensive, Kramp-Karrenbauer said that a NATO member violating the border of a neighboring country by force "endangers the foundation of the post-war order."

Read moreGermany promises US greater military involvement

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer
Kramp-Karrenbauer spoke at summit of the CSU, the CDU's Bavarian sister partyImage: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Kneffel

Germany needs to do more

The leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the CSU's sister party, also called for a more assertive German foreign policy in addressing strategic issues.

"When was the last time that we as Germany, and we, the CDU and CSU, actually made a substantive proposal on these international issues?" said Kramp-Karrenbauer.

"I cannot listen to it anymore that we are concerned, that we are observing with great concern, that we are looking on," she added. 

"We are strong, it is incumbent upon us, and at some point we have to finally give our own political answers."

Read moreGermany's foreign policy perspectives

More money for defense

Kramp-Karrenbauer added that Germany can build credibility as a strategic partner by adhering to NATO's request that members spend 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense. The defense minister has pushed for a spending increase since taking office in July.

The US has demanded that NATO members reach the 2% spending mark by 2024. US President Donald Trump has threatened to take the US out of NATO if partners do not spend more on defense.

Read moreOpinion: More money won't alone fix Germany's military woes

On Thursday, Germany's Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency reported that Germany would spend €50 million ($55,800) on defense in 2020, a 6.4% increase from 2019. Germany's defense ministry said the country plans to reach 1.5% of GDP on defense spending by 2024, and reach the NATO's 2% mark by 2031.

'We must preserve the gains'

wmr/jlw (dpa, Reuters)