Chancellor Angela Merkel sharpened her tone against President Donald Trump’s demands that Germany spend more on defense, saying she’ll keep insisting that targets on development aid are just as important.
The U.S. administration has ruled out counting foreign aid toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product in member states on defense. Trump has said Germany owes “vast sums of money” on security.
“As much as the U.S. government demands meeting NATO’s 2 percent defense spending goal by 2024, we will stand just as much by our 0.7 percent spending on development aid,” Merkel told an industry club in Hamburg on Friday. Germany spends about 1.2 percent of GDP on defense.
Merkel has said Germany will live up to its commitment to NATO burden-sharing, though she’s stuck to the language in a 2014 pledge that alliance members will “move towards” the 2 percent goal over a decade.
“Germany has always made clear that diplomacy and development aid have to be deployed in addition to defense expenditures,” Merkel said in Hamburg. “So I want to make it very clear, Germany stands by what we call our comprehensive approach, which is not confined to military deployments.”
Germany spent 0.5 percent of GDP on development in 2015, compared with 0.17 percent by the U.S., Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation said in data published in January. The United Nations has set a target of 0.7 percent for member countries.
Military spending has become an election-year topic in Germany as Merkel seeks a fourth term. Her main challenger for the chancellorship, Martin Schulz, and her foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel — both Social Democrats — have virtually ruled out reaching the 2 percent target.
The issue has driven a wedge between Berlin and Washington. A day after Merkel’s first meeting with Trump at the White House in March, the president said in a Twitter post that “Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO” and the U.S. “must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen retorted that “there is no debit account in NATO” and that the military alliance’s spending goal must go beyond investment in weapons to a “modern concept of security.”
Germany increased its defense budget by 8 percent this year to about 37 billion euros ($40.1 billion). Schulz and Gabriel have said that increasing that figure to 70 billion euros within a decade would be unrealistic and wasteful. Like Merkel, they argue that development aid should be counted as a security component.
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Patrick Donahue