German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday rejected accusations by U.S. President Donald Trump that Berlin owes NATO and the United States “vast sums” for defense, according to media reports.
“There is no account where debts are registered with NATO,” the defense minister said in a statement, questioning how military spending was calculated and arguing that a country’s financial commitment to the military alliance is not the only measure. “Defense spending also goes into U.N. peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against ISIS terrorism,” von der Leyen said.
Since the start of his campaign, Trump has urged Berlin and other NATO members to accelerate efforts to meet a 2 percent defense spending target. After his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday, Trump tweeted that Berlin “owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”
During the White House meeting, Merkel pledged to continue to increase Germany’s defense budget and reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the 2 percent goal by 2024.
In an interview with the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung newspaper to be published Monday, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also hit back at Trump’s comments, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.
“A sensible security policy is not just buying tanks, driving defense spending to insane heights and escalating the arms race,” he said. “A reasonable policy means crisis-prevention, stabilization of weak states, economic development and the fight against hunger, climate change and water scarcity.”