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Germany’s Merkel backs off NATO’s defense spending pledge

President Donald J. Trump sits next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a working session at the G7 Summit | June 8, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
August 15, 2019

Germany has reversed course on its 2014 pledge to NATO to spend two percent of GDP on defense, according to comments made by Angela Merkel on Tuesday.

Merkel, while speaking at a panel discussion organized by Ostsee Zeitung local newspaper in the Baltic Sea town of Stralsund on Tuesday, said, “We said we want to achieve 1.5% by 2024. And that is our common will,” Reuters reported

“And then we still have a lot of work to do for the next few years,” Merkel added.

At a NATO conference in 2014 in Wales, member nations pledged to reach two percent of GDP spent on defense by 2024, giving the nations 10 years to make such a change.

However, Merkel said NATO members agreed to work “toward 2%” and said Germany is in compliance with that pledge.

“So this means in the direction of 2%, and we will continue to go in this direction also after 2024,” Merkel said.

But the United States has a different view of Merkel’s comments.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told Fox News on Wednesday, “The Wales Pledge was made in 2014 and it gave a 10-year runway to get to 2 percent by 2024.”

“It is actually offensive to assume that the U.S. taxpayer must continue to pay to have 50,000-plus Americans in Germany, but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programs,” Grenell posted on the embassy’s official Twitter account Friday.

A statement by the U.S. envoy to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher to German press agency DPA on Thursday suggested relocating U.S. troops from Germany to Poland.

“President Trump is right and Georgette is right,” Grenell said. “Multiple presidents have asked the largest economy in Europe to pay for their own defense.”

The remarks from Mosbacher and Grenell come ahead of a visit by Trump to Poland, scheduled for September. German officials did not immediately respond to the ambassador’s comments, NBC said.

Christian Whiton, a former State Department senior advisor, told The Jerusalem Post that “Merkel’s posture is a joke and shows that the German government has no intention of doing its fair share for common defense. We ought to move our forces out of Germany and focus on collaboration with Poland the Baltics.”

He added, “Even if Germany were to spend the minimum 2 percent of GDP it promised on defense, which seems unlikely, there’s the question of what they would do with it. After all, they have opposed the US on Iran nuclear sanctions, and seem totally unwilling to help protect shipping in the Persian Gulf. They are a symbol of why NATO is obsolete and irrelevant to today’s threats,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

An estimated 34,000 U.S. service members are assigned to Germany, along with 17,000 civilian employees, across more than three dozen military bases, Fox News reported Friday.

NBC reported that “US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized Germany’s failure to raise defense spending to 2 percent of economic output as mandated by the NATO military alliance. Only Britain, Poland, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia from the NATO alliance reached the 2 percent GDP defense goal outlined by NATO at the Wales conference. Germany is Europe’s wealthiest country.”