Germany owes Nato 'vast sums': Donald Trump

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and US President Donald Trump before a meeting with Germans and US business leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on March 17, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and US President Donald Trump before a meeting with Germans and US business leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on March 17, 2017 in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Donald Trump unleashed a diatribe against Germany on Saturday, saying Berlin owes “vast sums of money” to Nato and must pay Washington more for security.

His latest tweetstorm comes a day after he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington, where the two leaders showed little common ground over a host of thorny issues, including Nato and defence spending.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted: “Germany owes vast sums of money to Nato & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defence it provides to Germany!”

He prefaced his statement by lashing out at the news media.

“Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS,” he tweeted, “I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

During his joint news conference with Merkel on Friday, Trump demanded that America’s allies in the military alliance pay back “vast sums of money from past years.”

Merkel said Germany had committed to increasing its military spending to two percent of GDP, a target Nato member states formally agreed in 2014 to reach within 10 years.

Trump set the tone for his relations with Merkel during his campaign last year, saying her decision to allow refugees into Germany was a “catastrophic mistake” and suggesting she was “ruining Germany.”

He also made European defence spending an issue during his campaign, saying the United States – which spends just over 3 per cent of its GDP on defence – carries too much of the financial burden for supporting Nato.

He has also worried US allies by criticising the military alliance as “obsolete” at a time many of its members are concerned about Russia’s aggressive posture on the continent.

Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

US defence spending – US$679 billion (S$950 billion) in 2016 – accounts for 68 per cent of the total defense budgets of Nato’s 28 members.

Besides the United States (at 3.36 per cent of GDP), only Britain (2.17 per cent), Poland (2.01 per cent), Estonia (2.18 per cent) and Greece (2.36 per cent) currently reach the goal, according to Nato estimates for 2016.