Donald Trump has warned that NATO member states who do not fulfill their financial obligations to the US-led military bloc will be “framed.” Trump especially pointed his finger at Germany.
This veiled threat came at a cabinet meeting in Washington on Thursday, which was attended by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We have some who do not [provide a sufficient contribution to NATO] and, well, they will be framed,” Trump was quoted as saying by Reuters. Berlin, in particular, “did not contribute what it should be contributing and is a great beneficiary,” he told Stoltenberg.
“Germany must demonstrate leadership in the alliance, addressing its long-standing deficit in defense contributions,” added the US leader.
Stoltenberg praised Trump for his pressure on members of the bloc to increase its spending on defense, saying that such a policy had already “helped make a difference.”
“This is affecting allies because now all the allies are increasing defense spending. No ally is cutting their budgets further,” said the NATO chief.
However, not all are willing or able to expand their defense budgets to the “minimum” level of 2% of gross domestic product by 2025 as demanded by Trump.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday that the country would only increase its military spending by 1.5 percent over the next seven years. Von der Leyen said that money should not be the main criterion and noted that Germany remains the second largest contributor of labor to NATO.
The statement was somewhat surprising as it was made a few hours after Chancellor Angela Merkel promised that Germany would maintain its 2% pledge to the alliance.
“We are looking forward to the German government bringing a reliable plan for the NATO summit in July, showing how it will fulfill its promise to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense,” Richard Grenell, the new US ambassador to Germany said on Thursday.
Relations between the US and Germany are currently hampered by issues beyond defense spending. Berlin is leading the EU resistance to US steel and aluminum tariffs while Washington is pressing Germany to give up the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia.
The US’ withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal has also heightened tensions and been condemned by the German leadership. “It’s no longer the case that the US simply protects us,” Merkel said. “Europe needs to take its destiny into its own hands,” Merkel said shortly after Trump’s decision to withdraw from the historic agreement, which is universally supported in the EU.
Trump criticized NATO during his White House campaign, repeatedly calling the bloc “obsolete” and too expensive for American taxpayers to maintain. However, upon taking office, the US leader reversed his views, promising full American support to the alliance.
“I said it was obsolete. It is no longer obsolete,” he said, claiming that NATO has since switched to “fighting terrorism” just as he wanted it to.