Ger­many’s Merkel dis­putes Trump’s NATO debt claim

Merkel: No mem­ber pays en­tire de­fense bud­get into NATO.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Geir Moulson

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel on Mon­day un­der­lined Ger­many’s re­jec­tion of a claim by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that her coun­try owes NATO large sums for un­der­spend­ing on de­fense. She also pointed to Ger­many’s his­tory of decades of post-World War II mil­i­tary re­straint.

Trump tweeted Satur­day, a day af­ter meet­ing Merkel in Washington, that “Ger­many owes vast sums of money to NATO.” He added that “the United States must be paid more for the pow­er­ful, and very ex­pen­sive, de­fense it pro­vides to Ger­many!”

Ber­lin’s de­fense bud­get has long been be­low NATO’s tar­get of 2 per­cent of a mem­ber’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. The fig­ure is cur­rently at 1.23 per­cent, though Ger­many has been rais­ing de­fense spend­ing and Merkel has stressed its com­mit­ment to reach­ing the tar­get by 2024.

Merkel said de­fense spend­ing is “not just about con­tri­bu­tions to NATO, but also about Euro­pean con­tri­bu­tions in Africa for ex­am­ple, U.N. mis­sions.”

“Not a sin­gle NATO mem­ber state pays its en­tire de­fense bud­get into NATO,” she said Mon­day at a news con­fer­ence in Hannover with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe.

Merkel said that de­fense spend­ing “can’t be un­cou­pled from his­tor­i­cal de­vel­op­ments from one day to the next.” She re­called that the im­me­di­ate post-World War II aim was to have a Ger­many that was in­te­grated into the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

Ger­many grad­u­ally emerged from its post-war diplo­matic and mil­i­tary shell af­ter re­uni­fi­ca­tion in 1990, send­ing troops to Kosovo and Afghanistan — though it also re­fused to join the U.S.led in­va­sion of Iraq in 2003. Mil­i­tary mis­sions aren’t pop­u­lar with the pub­lic and are of­ten a sub­ject of ag­o­nized political de­bate.

“Of course the role of Ger­many has changed,” Merkel said.

“If you look at our mil­i­tary com­mit­ment to­day, then you see that a quar­ter-cen­tury later Ger­many plays a com­pletely dif­fer­ent role,” she added. “But it is a process, and it is a process that the United States of Amer­ica wanted ... and we can­not sim­ply cast off this process from one day to the next.”

She said that de­fense spend­ing is only one con­tri­bu­tion to se­cu­rity, along with de­vel­op­ment aid and political so­lu­tions to con­flicts.

Merkel’s cen­ter-left ri­vals in a Septem­ber elec­tion, and cur­rent coali­tion part­ners, have struck a sharper tone on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­in­force­ment of de­mands that NATO al­lies pay more.

Spend­ing 2 per­cent of GDP on de­fense would mean dou­bling Ger­many’s de­fense bud­get, and “I don’t know who can imag­ine that some­thing like that is pos­si­ble,” For­eign Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel told a congress of his So­cial Democrats on Sun­day.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel met pres­i­dent Fri­day.

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