U.S. President Donald Trump told NATO leaders they should increase their defense spending to 4% of GDP, that is to double the current goal of 2 percent.
NATO allies shrugged off the demand as part and parcel of Trump’s brash push for allies to spend more on their own defense at a summit in Brussels, with a quip from the alliance’s chief that it should aim to meet its goal before reaching further.
“We should first get to 2 pct,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, adding that eight of the 29 allies were meeting that target, while others had a plan to do – turning a leaf on years of defense budget cuts.
Striking a strident tone at the summit, Trump’s aspirational target of 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) was above the United States own spending on defense.
The United States, the world’s biggest military power, spent some 3.57 percent on defense last year, according to NATO figures.
A White House spokeswoman said his remarks came as he was urging leaders to increase their outlays on defense and were not a formal proposal.
“He suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4 percent,” Sarah Sanders told reporters.
“Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations.”
A source close to French President Emmanuel Macron also played down Trump’s words as rhetoric, saying “it is not a new demand.”
War of Words with Germany
Trump also attacked Germany claiming that it gives billions of dollars to Russia for natural gas purchase, instead of spending this money for the NATO.
Germany has the EU’s biggest economy and has long been accused by US administrations of failing to contribute its fair share to Nato operations but Mr Trump’s comments were particularly stinging.
At a breakfast meeting in Brussels with Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg, the US leader said: “Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they will be getting from 60% to 70% of their energy from Russia, and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that’s appropriate because I think it’s not and I think it’s a very bad thing for Nato.”
"Germany is totally controlled by Russia," Pres. Trump tells NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg as they sit down together for bilateral breakfast ahead of Brussels summit. https://t.co/CmyplgrxzN pic.twitter.com/6RnFk8Drgs
— ABC News (@ABC) July 11, 2018
Donald Trump tweeted also:
What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
EU figures suggest Russia is responsible for between 50% and 75% of Germany’s gas imports, but gas makes up less than 20% of Germany’s energy mix for power production.
German journalists prompted to correct Donald Trump:
"They [Germany] will be getting between 60 and 70 percent of their energy from Russia".
In 2017 Germany got 9% of its total energy consumption from Russian gas and 40 percent of its total gas consumption.
— Stefan Leifert (@StefanLeifert) July 11, 2018
Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected Trump’s accusations that Germany is “totally controlled by Russia.”
“Because of given circumstances I want to point out one thing: I experienced the Soviet occupation of one part of Germany myself. It is good that we are independent today,” said Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, a former satellite state of the Soviet Union.
Germany has given political support for a new Baltic Sea pipeline, Nord Stream 2, which will increase the flow of Russian gas to EU states. The project has been sharply criticized by Poland and others.
The US president also accused Germany of only spending “a little bit over 1%” of its economic output on defense compared to the 4.2% spent by the US “in actual numbers”.
Germany spends 1.24% of GDP on defense and the US 3.5%, according to the latest Nato estimate.
Indicative for Trump’s mood towards his European allies was his tweet a day before the NATO Summit commenced in Brussels.
Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2% (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made. Will they reimburse the U.S.?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2018
The European Union makes it impossible for our farmers and workers and companies to do business in Europe (U.S. has a $151 Billion trade deficit), and then they want us to happily defend them through NATO, and nicely pay for it. Just doesn’t work!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2018
He has said the US is being “taken advantage of” by other members of the Nato alliance, which was set up in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union, of which Russia is the main successor state.
European Council President Donald Tusk accused him of criticising Europe “almost daily”, tweeting:
Dear @realDonaldTrump. US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU. We spend on defense much more than Russia and as much as China. I hope you have no doubt this is an investment in our security, which cannot be said with confidence about Russian & Chinese spending 🙂
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) July 10, 2018
sources: reuters, bbc, politico, twitter