Germany hits back at Trump's claim it owes 'vast sums' to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

20 March, 2017, 13:34 | Author: Benny Bass
  • President Donald Trump meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington Friday

"Many nations owe vast sums of money from the past years, and it's very unfair to the USA".

US President Donald Trump used a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to deflect criticism about his unsubstantiated claim that the Obama administration spied on him, reviving a sensitive diplomatic incident in which the US was revealed to have snooped on her cellphone.

If the cancellation of their previously planned meeting due to severe weather in Washington could be perceived as a fitting symbol for Chancellor Merkel's and President Trump's earlier relationship - frosty, if not icy - then today's weather in the USA capital - sunny, but crisp - might have served as a sign that the two are trying to move beyond past grievances. Trump has urged Germany and other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members to accelerate efforts to meet NATO's defense spending target.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday that "there's no debtor's account at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation", adding: "To tie the 2 percent of defense spending, which we want to achieve in the middle of the next decade, only to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is wrong".

Trump had earlier welcomed Merkel with a handshake.

"We said nothing. All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on TV", Trump said.

During the press questions, a reporter from German paper Die Welt asked Ms Merkel if she thought that a trade agreement between the European Union and the US would be multilateral or bilateral.

"I was gratified to know that the President underlined how important he thinks NATO", Merkel said.

"The English word she puts a lot of emphasis on right now is the word 'reciprocity, ' " Koch says.

The criticism echoed other experts, including former United States ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder.

Today he expressed support for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation but pushed for nations to "pay what they owe" - working toward contributing at least 2 percent of each member country's GDP.

Germany's defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, a close Merkel ally, on Sunday rebuffed his comments. Yesterday, Germany's biggest-selling daily Bild said that throughout the White House meeting, not once did Trump look her in the eye. "Germany is a very unusual country because the question is whether it's actually a country, or whether it's just an occupation zone because apparently, the occupation status of 1945 is still on the books". Over the past decade, U.S. bases in Germany have mostly benefited America. In 2014, for instance, German forces made headlines when they were forced to use broomsticks instead of machine guns during a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation exercise, exposing the state of its underequipped military.

"I'll make that clear", Merkel added. "There is no apodictic 2 percent goal, but rather ... we should be moving in that direction".

Germany, whose wartime past has led it traditionally to be reticent on military matters, now spends 1.2 percent of GDP on defence. "We need both." "When we live in more challenging times, we need to invest more in defense", he went on. So, if a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member country is ever attacked, the rest can help. It's only been invoked once since North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was started; that was after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. At least one more country, Romania, expects to meet the two percent mark in 2017. The US President, however, seems to be equally committed to the idea of making the allies actually foot their bills.

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