Germany 'not fair' on defense spending, says Donald Trump

The US president has claimed Germany and other NATO members "owe billions" for falling short of spending targets. German politicians have previously addressed his views of how NATO funding and defense spending work.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday singled out Germany for failing to meet a defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP agreed upon between members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Speaking ahead of a Cabinet meeting, Trump said "some friends and enemies" had "taken advantage" of the US "on trade and on military."

Read more: How does Germany contribute to NATO?

"If you look at NATO, where Germany pays 1 percent and we are paying 4.2 percent of a much bigger GDP – that's not fair," Trump said.

Last year, Germany spent 1.13 percent of GDP, far below the NATO target agreed upon between member states in 2014 in Wales. In the agreement, member states were given until 2024 to reach that goal. Berlin has vowed to follow through on that commitment.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

The good, the bad and the ugly

US President Donald Trump has offered both candid praise and unabashed criticism of Germany and its policies. From calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel "possibly the greatest world leader" to describing her open-door refugee policy as a "catastrophic mistake," here are his most memorable quotes regarding Germany.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Greatest'

"Germany's like sitting back silent, collecting money and making a fortune with probably the greatest leader in the world today, Merkel," Trump said in a 2015 interview with US news magazine Time.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Very bad'

"The Germans are bad, very bad ... Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible. We'll stop that," Trump said during a NATO leaders summit, according to German news magazine Der Spiegel, which cited sources at the alliance's meeting.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Something in common'

"As far as wiretapping, I guess, by - you know - [the Obama] administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps," Trump said in March during a press conference with Merkel. He was referring to his unproven allegations that ex-President Barack Obama tapped his phone. There was widespread anger in Germany in 2013 when it was revealed the US National Security Agency tapped Merkel's phone.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Illegals'

"I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals (sic), you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from," Trump said in a joint interview published by German daily Bild and British newspaper The Times, referring to Merkel's open-door policy for refugees fleeing war and persecution.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Germany owes vast sums of money'

"Despite what you have heard from the fake news, I had a great meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO and the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany," Trump said in a two-tweet statement after meeting with Merkel for the first time in March 2017.

Donald Trump on Germany: Top quotes

'Turning their backs'

"The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition," Trump tweeted in the midst of a row within the German goverment. He went on to claim that: "Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!"

Politics at play

How Germany achieves this target is a contentious subject domestically, with arguments that often fall along party lines.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have backed a straightforward interpretation of the NATO target and promised to meet that goal by 2024.

Read more: Germany mulls a real, but unrealistic, pledge on defense spending

Outgoing Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democrats (SPD) has argued that the target should be revamped to include other factors, such as humanitarian aid and stabilization programs, which he says also contribute to defense and security.

Debts?

Trump's latest criticism is not new though. Last year, he claimed Germany owed "vast sums of money to NATO and the United States."

Related Subjects

Von der Leyen responded to that allegation, saying: "There is no account where debts are registered with NATO." It is unlikely that he meant NATO's "common-funder budgets and programs," of which German is the second-largest funder behind the United States.

Read more: Is Europe bold enough to counter US ambivalence?

Despite earlier clarifications, Trump on Wednesday renewed his claim that several NATO member states "owe billions," adding that "they haven't made payment."

Of NATO's 29 member states, only five have met the target as of last year, including the US, Estonia, Greece, Poland and the UK.

Germany's NATO missions

Germany's role in NATO

West Germany officially joined the trans-Atlantic alliance in 1955. However, it wasn't until after reunification in 1990 that the German government considered "out of area" missions led by NATO. From peacekeeping to deterrence, Germany's Bundeswehr has since been deployed in several countries across the globe in defense of its allies.

Germany's NATO missions

Bosnia: Germany's first NATO mission

In 1995, Germany participated in its first "out of area" NATO mission as part of a UN-mandated peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the deployment, German soldiers joined other NATO member forces to provide security in the wake of the Bosnian War. The peacekeeping mission included more than 60,000 troops from NATO's member states and partners.

Germany's NATO missions

Keeping the peace in Kosovo

Since the beginning of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, some 8,500 German soldiers have been deployed in the young country. In 1999, NATO launched an air assault against Serbian forces accused of carrying out a brutal crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists and their civilian supporters. Approximately 550 Bundeswehr troops are still stationed in Kosovo.

Germany's NATO missions

Patrolling the Aegean Sea

In 2016, Germany deployed its combat support ship "Bonn" to lead a NATO mission backed by the EU in the Aegean Sea. The mission included conducting "reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance of illegal crossings" in Greek and Turkish territorial waters at the height of the migration crisis. Germany, Greece and Turkey had requested assistance from the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Germany's NATO missions

More than a decade in Afghanistan

In 2003, Germany's parliament voted to send Bundeswehr troops to Afghanistan in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Germany became the third-largest contributor of troops and led the Regional Command North. More than 50 German troops were killed during the mission. Nearly a thousand soldiers are still deployed in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support.

Germany's NATO missions

German tanks in Lithuania

Forming part of NATO's "enhanced forward presence" in the Baltic states, 450 Bundeswehr soldiers have been deployed to Lithuania so far in 2017. The battalion-size battlegroups there are led by Germany, Canada, the UK and US to reinforce collective defense on the alliance's eastern flank. It forms the "biggest reinforcement of Alliance collective defence in a generation," according to NATO.

Germany's NATO missions

Taking over the leadership

The Bundeswehr is due to take over leadership of NATO's multinational Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) at the start of 2019. The rapid reaction force has been set up to counter potential Russian aggression on the alliance's eastern flank.

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