Germany Balks at U.S. Summons to Meet NATO Defense-Spending Obligations

NATO
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty

Germany’s defense minister has deflected attention from her country’s failure to meet NATO defense-spending obligations, insisting Tuesday that Germany is already doing enough for NATO in other ways without spending 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday evening in Berlin that Germany would eventually meet its financial obligations to NATO while insisting at the same time that spending is not the only way to judge a nation’s commitment to NATO, an argument frequently heard from European countries.

“You can easily spend two percent of your gross domestic product on defense without actually providing anything to NATO,” she said.

“The question for NATO is not just how much you spend nationally on defense, but how much the country provides in terms of contributions that NATO needs,” she added.

The United States bears the lion’s share of the financial burden for the NATO alliance, currently funding some 70 percent of NATO’s budget. President Donald Trump has made it clear on multiple occasions that the U.S. expects its European allies to start pulling more of their weight and is anticipated to repeat this message forcefully at next week’s NATO summit.

Like most other NATO countries, Germany has for years failed to meet its defense-spending obligations, preferring to let the United States carry the burden of defending Europe, while spending more money on its capacious welfare state.

In her remarks Tuesday, von der Leyen emphasized Germany’s accomplishments, noting that it is the second-largest supplier of troops to NATO after the United States, as well as the second-largest supplier of troops in Afghanistan.

“To be clear: we stand by the 2 percent goal that we set ourselves in Wales. We are on the way to meeting it. And we are ready, and have shown that we are ready, to take on substantial responsibilities inside the alliance,” the minister said.

In point of fact, however, Germany is still very far from meeting its defense obligations and has revealed no plans to do so any time soon.

Last year, Germany spent just under 1.2 percent of GDP on military defense, and only intends to raise that share to 1.5 percent in 2024, according to its current plans.

Mr. Trump has made clear that the United States is no longer willing to be taken advantage of by its allies.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell informed Breitbart News in June that the President had told him to address Germany’s NATO spending.

“It is woeful,” Grenell said. “Germany is the largest economy in Europe. They made a commitment to NATO, and they should be serious about that commitment; it is a multilateral institution that guarantees the allies, guaranteeing freedom.”

“Germany made that commitment, and we expect the Germans to follow through,” he added. “We have yet to see a serious plan put forward as to how they get to that two percent of GDP.”

In early June, Mr. Trump punctuated his concern with Germany’s failure to fulfil its obligations with a series of tweets.

“The U.S. pays close to the entire cost of NATO – protecting many of these same countries that rip us off on trade (they pay only a fraction of the cost – and laugh!)… The European Union had a $151 billion surplus – should pay much more for military!” he wrote, before singling out Germany.

“Germany pays 1 percent (slowly) of GDP toward NATO, while we pay 4 percent of a much larger GDP. Does anybody believe that makes sense?”

“We protect Europe (which is good) at great financial loss, and then get unfairly clobbered on trade. Change is coming!” he said.

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