Angela Merkel and European leaders resist Donald Trump’s ultimatum to increase defence spending or risk losing US commitment to Nato

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, 18 February 2017 • 10:46am

European leaders have pushed back at Donald Trump’s ultimatum that they increase defence spending or risk America scaling back its commitment to Transatlantic protection.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said her country would not accelerate existing, long-term plans to ramp up the military budget by 2024 despite a demand by the US this week that countries increase spending by the end of the year.

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, also said countries must not cave in to US demands.

James Mattis, US defence secretary, earlier this week warned Nato that a new “political reality” after the election of Donald Trump meant it was no longer possible for allies to shirk their share of the defence burden.

Unless nations began spending more, Mr Mattis said Washington could “moderate” its commitment to them.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Mr Mattis, a retired US Marine general, said Europe now faced “threat on multiple fronts as the arc of instability builds on Nato’s periphery and beyond”.

But Mr Juncker said he was “very much against letting ourselves be pushed into “an increase in defence spending.

He said: “I don’t like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military.” Germany would lose its budget surplus if it increased defence spending to two per cent of GDP from 1.22 per cent, he said.

He went on: “If you look at what Europe is doing in defence, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different. Modern politics cannot just be about raising defence spending.”

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Nato guidelines call for all members of the collective defence alliance to spend two per cent of GDP on military budgets.

But in reality only five – America, Britain, Greece, Estonia and Poland – do so, while some, including Italy and Spain, spend half that.

Mrs Merkel said her country would stick to its long-term commitment to raise defence spending by the middle of the next decade.

She said that “Germany is conscious of its responsibility” to spend more on arms, but added other issues were also important for global security.

Mrs Merkel said Germany had increased defence spending by eight per cent in this year’s budget over last year.

She said: “We must do more here, no question, but the matters of development aid and crisis prevention are also important.”

Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said Mr Mattis had been “uncompromising” in his message to European leaders to “step up”.

Meanwhile Germany’s defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, acknowledged that her country would in future be unable to step back and rely on American protection.

She said: “From the German point of view, our traditional reflex of relying above all on our American friends’ vigour and ducking away when things really get tight … will no longer be enough.”

But she also had a message for Mr Trump, warning that he could not put European allies on an equal footing with an aggressive Russia.

She said: “Our American friends know well that their tone on Europe and Nato has a direct influence on the cohesion of our continent.

“A stable European Union is just as much in the American interest as a united Nato.”

She went on: “There cannot be a policy of equidistance to allies and to those who openly question our values, our borders and international law.”

7 responses to “Angela Merkel and European leaders resist Donald Trump’s ultimatum to increase defence spending or risk losing US commitment to Nato

    • Quite correct John. Germany says they are paying more into NATO than any other European country (14.5% second only to the US), even so, they are not paying what they agreed, which is 2% of their gross domestic product.

  1. She’s shirking away from her responsibilities. Putting a lot of money into areas outside of German interests, I wonder how long it is before the German people say enough is enough!

    • True Andy. The German elections are being held in September, opinion polls put Merkel’s party in the lead – but only just. It will be interesting to see which way the German people vote. Thanks for your comment

  2. I’m with you Rich. This has gone on far too long. I remember back in around 2007/8 I was talking to a few of the boys who had come back from Afghanistan and they told me then that the general feeling amongst British and American forces out there was that most of the European-NATO countries were half hearted at best and at times downright unreliable. Bare in mind these guys were ordinary soldiers not ranking officers but the impact that thought has on morale is damaging especially if one of their mates gets killed.

    • Sometimes the best test for opinion are those on the front line who experience the reality of the situation and not the senior officers who often have an invested need for the current regime to remain in power. If our fears are realised, and a European army is created, I wonder how it will be organised? Where will it be headquartered? The European Union is experiencing many problems, one might assume that a European army would be similarly afflicted? Thanks for your thoughts Tony.

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