German politicians on Tuesday threatened to expel U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell over his sharp criticism of Germany’s low defense spending. Grenell took Germany to task for failing to meet its own spending goals, let alone its commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Grenell responded on Monday to advance word that Germany’s new budget plan calls for defense spending to peak at 1.37 percent of national income in 2020, but then begin declining to 1.25 percent by 2023.
NATO members are supposed to spend 2 percent on defense, a target the Trump administration has insisted upon much more vigorously than previous administrations. The Germans previously pledged to reach 1.5 percent by 2024, which is still much lower than their NATO commitment.
Rumblings began early in 2019 that Germany would miss the 1.5 percent target, even though it boasts Europe’s largest economy and there is abundant evidence its military forces are unprepared for serious military action.
“It is woeful,” Grenell told Breitbart News in a June 2018 interview. “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.”
The new budget falls far short of even that modest goal, bringing a stern rebuke from Grenell, who maintains Germany never had a serious plan for reaching 2 percent defense spending.
“NATO members clearly pledged to move towards, not away from, two percent by 2024,” Grenell pointed out. “That the German government would even be considering reducing its already unacceptable commitments to military readiness is a worrisome signal to Germany’s 28 NATO allies.”
Several German politicians responded to Grenell with outrage, notably the deputy speaker of the Bundestag and vice president of the Free Democratic Party, Wolfgang Kubicki.
Kubicki compared Grenell to “a high commissioner of an occupying power” and said his interference in “political questions of the sovereign Federal Republic” should not be tolerated. He recommended declaring Grenell persona non grata and expelling him from Germany.
“Diplomatically, Mr. Grenell is a complete failure. This entire thing seems like the behavior of a naughty schoolboy,” added Carsten Schneider, parliamentary manager for the Social Democrat party.
“Mr. Grenell damages transatlantic relations with his repeated clumsy provocations,” Schneider declared.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s response was a bit more diplomatic, as she conceded it was understandable why President Donald Trump and Germany’s European allies might find Germany’s defense contributions inadequate.
“We have always said that we’re headed in the direction of two percent, and that by 2024 we will reach 1.5 percent,” Merkel insisted – a rather bizarre assertion given that Grenell was responding to a German budget that would not get anywhere near 1.5 percent, not in 2020 and not by 2024. If Merkel has “always said” something else, her finance minister appears not to have heard her.
Ambassador Grenell has allies in Germany as well as critics. Green Party legislator Omid Nouripour, who has previously applauded Grenell for saying undiplomatic things Berlin needs to hear, denounced threats to expel Grenell as “nonsense” and said he represents a line of communication with the White House “needed more than ever before.”
German armed forces commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels agreed on Tuesday with Grenell’s assessment that the new military budget is dangerously now. Bartels cited painful defects in German military hardware and said German soldiers believe their country’s pledge to NATO should be “predictably and reliably implemented.”
Germans who were critical of Merkel’s open-door refugee policies over the past few years will not be pleased to hear their government cite the soaring cost of refugee services as one of the primary reasons the military budget cannot be increased.