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Germany misses key NATO defense spending deadline

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. (Arno Mikkor/Flickr)
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Germany has missed a deadline for reporting to NATO how it will increase defense expenditures, failing to deliver on a key priority for the Trump administration.

Under pressure from the White House, NATO states that don’t meet spending guidelines are now required to formulate national plans for boosting their defense budgets. The objective is to ensure all alliance members hit the NATO benchmark of dedicating 2 percent of GDP to their respective militaries by 2024.

Germany’s defense ministry told Stars and Stripes on Friday that the government has not yet turned in its plan, which is supposed to detail annual steps toward reaching spending targets.

Germany is one of just two nations late with the report, which was due Dec. 31, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily reported earlier this week.

NATO on Friday declined to comment on which nations haven’t yet submitted plans, referring questions to national authorities. The alliance said national spending plans of all members would be on the agenda when defense ministers meet in Brussels later this month.

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The idea of national spending plans was introduced in 2017 when then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned members that failure to ramp up spending could put U.S. support for the military alliance at risk. On Feb. 13, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is expected to make his first appearance with allies at the conference in Brussels.

Currently, only eight members meet NATO’s 2 percent spending benchmark. And Germany’s failure to craft concrete annual steps for elevating defense spending could increase existing tensions with Washington. President Donald Trump has repeatedly singled out Germany for spending too little and at a NATO summit in July the president also threatened to “go our own way” if allies didn’t start investing more.

Allied military investment — or lack of it — has been the biggest focus for Trump when it comes to NATO. Although the trans-Atlantic alliance has been a cornerstone of U.S. security strategy for 70 years, Trump has questioned the continuing value of the institution.

Privately, Trump also has repeatedly discussed with aides the idea of quitting NATO, according to a recent New York Times report. Last month, Congress drafted legislation in an attempt to block such a move by the White House.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has sought to highlight progress by members on spending, and during a tour to the U.S. last week heaped praise on Trump for pressuring members to spend more.

“By the end of next year, NATO allies will add $100 billion extra toward defense,” Stoltenberg said during an appearance Sunday on Fox News. “So we see some real money and some real results. And we see that the clear message from President Donald Trump is having an impact.”

The increases in defense spending began even before Trump came into office. Russia’s 2014 military intervention in Ukraine altered how allies view the security situation in Europe. That year, members agreed to stop spending cuts and work to reach NATO’s 2 percent mark by 2024. Germany, however, has lagged behind even though it is Europe’s largest economy.

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Under current plans, Berlin is expected to spend only 1.5 percent of GDP on defense by 2024.

Marcus Kloeckner contributed to this story.

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©2019 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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