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Germany rejects President Trump's claim it owes North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 'vast sums'

20 March 2017

The president's tweeted message about Germany owing "vast sums of money to NATO" likely relates to a related but separate issue, dealing with indirect contributions.

His comments came via Twitter following his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this week.

In fact, only five of the 28 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have made the grade: Aside from the US, the other four were Greece (2.36 percent in 2016, amounting to $4.6 billion), Estonia (2.18 percent, $503 million), Britain (2.17 percent, $56.8 billion) and Poland (2.01 percent, $12.7 billion).

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Neither leader named the USA government as they opened the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover, but both used the opportunity to distance themselves from protectionist tendencies coming from the Trump administration. This is his clearest demand yet that not only should Germany spend more on its own defense, it should pay more directly to the USA for its contributions to Europe's security. He noted that the non-U.S. members' combined increased defense spending past year amounted to 3.8 percent in real terms. The headquarters for U.S. European and Africa Commands, as well as Europe-focused Army, Air Force and Marine headquarters, also operate out of Germany - along with a mix of line and enabling units.

Germany, on the other hand, only contributes an abysmal 1.2 percent.

NATO's other North American member, Canada, spent 1.02 percent on defense previous year ($15.5 billion), while the average across its European members was 1.47 percent.

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Trump also said that he had thanked the German leader for her commitment towards an increase in defense spending.

Impacting NATO's indirect rather than direct funding, the target is meant to be "an indicator of a country's political will to contribute" to common defense efforts.

The instruction was non-binding, and some members - including Germany - ignored it. Von der Leyen, the defense minister who rebuked Trump, told German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle at the time that she saw no need for Germany to meet the commitment, as it was already the alliance's second-largest military contributor. "Americans can not care more for your children's security than you do". Unequal contributions to the alliance have long rankled the U.S. With increased Russian aggression in Georgia and Ukraine, members must step up their commitments, U.S. officials say.

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Germany rejects President Trump's claim it owes North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 'vast sums'