The day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Washington on March 18, US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to accuse Germany of owing the United States “vast sums of money” for Nato. Berlin was quick to reject his claim.
On March 19, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen called the criticism “inaccurate,” without mentioning the president’s name.
“Nato does not have a debt account,” von der Leyen said, according to her ministry. In reality, Nato has only a small logistical budget, which relies on funding by all member states. The vast majority of Nato members’ total resources are managed domestically.
As reported by The Washington Post, the criticism echoed that of other experts, including former US ambassador to Nato Ivo Daalder.
“Trump’s comments misrepresent the way Nato functions,” Daalder told The Washington Post. “The president keeps saying that we need to be paid by the Europeans for the fact that we have troops in Europe or provide defence there. But that’s not how it works.”
Meanwhile, tension is growing between Germany and the US. The percentage of Germans who view the United States as a trustworthy ally has dropped from 59% in November to 22% in February, reported The Washington Post.
In recent months, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s outspoken vice chancellor and foreign minister, has even called Trump a “threat.”
In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that Merkel in Washington had already reiterated her government’s commitment to increasing military spending to 25% of gross domestic product (GDP), a target Nato member states formally agreed in 2014 to reach within 10 years.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the German newspaper Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel hit back at Trump’s comments.
“A sensible security policy is not just buying tanks, driving defence spending to insane heights, and escalating the arms race,” he told the regional daily. “A reasonable policy means crisis prevention, stabilization of weak states, economic development and the fight against hunger, climate change and water scarcity.”