It appears that the “Resist Trump!” movement has spread to the leadership of some of our allied nations. The latest incident comes in the form of comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, made during a speech to a regional industry group. The subject at hand was Germany’s commitment to ramp up their defense spending to two percent of their GDP in accordance with previous agreements. It’s a subject which President Trump was very keen on during the campaign and he hasn’t been letting up on it. But Merkel is claiming that not only do such things take time, but that her country’s spending on foreign developmental aid should count toward that total. (Bloomberg)
Chancellor Angela Merkel sharpened her tone against President Donald Trump’s demands that Germany spend more on defense, saying she’ll keep insisting that targets on development aid are just as important.
The U.S. administration has ruled out counting foreign aid toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s target of spending 2 percent of gross national product in member states on defense. Trump has said Germany owes “vast sums of money” on security.
“As much as the U.S. government demands meeting NATO’s 2 percent defense spending goal by 2024, we will stand just as much by our 0.7 percent spending for development aid,” Merkel told an industry club in Hamburg on Friday. Germany spends about 1.2 percent of GDP on defense.
Development aid and domestic military spending are two very different things, particularly since the former doesn’t really do anything to cut down our costs in shouldering the burden of being the military muscle behind NATO. Why the two are being conflated in this fashion is something of a mystery but it’s not in keeping with current US priorities. Of course, Merkel is still coming off slightly better than her two mostly likely opponents in the upcoming election, Martin Schulz and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Both have said that two percent is pretty much “out of the question” at this point.
This seems like foolish behavior for a nation which is not only one of our strongest allies in the democratic world but one which remains so heavily reliant on America in some ways. We don’t actually give much to Germany in direct foreign aid (it’s literally only in the $20K range) but that’s hardly the only economic impact we have. The amount we spend on our own military presence there combined with the positive impact all of those resources and people have on the local economy are considerable. Merkel may be forgetting that President Trump has already shown himself to be someone who isn’t constrained by the shackles of the past when it comes to our relationships with our partners. If Germany doesn’t want to hold up their end of the bargain there are numerous places where cuts could be made which could make up the difference, and I’m sure the Germans wouldn’t like them.
One of the areas where I solidly agree with the President is in the fact that the modern global arena is not one where America can afford to be an endless money tree which covers everyone’s defense. Germany has a thriving economy, along with several of our other partners, and they can certainly do a bit more to pay for their own defense and security. Merkel should think this one through a bit more.