Earlier this month we heard some grumbling coming out of Germany about President Trump’s expectations that they should be paying their fair share of the defense burden in the region, particularly in terms of their commitments to NATO. Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing some opposition in the upcoming elections from players who are insisting that such a thing is neither feasible or desirable. For her part, Merkel was still sounding as if they planned to spend more on defense, but she wasn’t going to commit to a full 2% of GDP in that area because she wanted to count money Germany spends on diplomatic aid into the total.
That’s really not in keeping with the spirit of the agreement and it seemed as if it was going to turn into another sticking point between Germany and the United States in the era of Trump. But on Thursday Merkel came out with a new statement which at least hints at the possibility that she’s changing her tune. (Daily Caller)
Germany intends to increase its defense spending in coming years to meet NATO’s target of 2 percent of gross domestic product, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday.
President Donald Trump has been vocal in his criticism of Germany’s defense spending since taking office. The country currently allocates about 1.2 percent of GDP on defense, and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel recently said Germany has no intention to increase it. (RELATED: Trump Allegedly Handed Merkel A $370 Billion Bill For NATO)
Merkel said the government intends to stand by the Cardiff agreement from 2014 and gradually invest more resources in defense.
That all sounds good in a headline, but at the same time we don’t seem to be hearing any firm commitments. The comments from both Merkel and the Secretary General of NATO toss around the 2% figure, but they include words and phrases such as eventually, “sooner or later” and gradually. At one point a target date of 2024 was mentioned, but that doesn’t seem to be put down anywhere in writing yet. And it’s also a rather convenient date for another reason. Do you know what else happens in 2024? Even if we were to assume that Donald Trump runs for and wins a second term, that would be his lame duck period on the way out the door. If there’s a much less militaristic or aggressive president on the way in by then, Germany could be off the hook.
But even if this is the new policy and she’s good to her word, what prompted the change? Nobody seems to be saying, but two possibilities come to mind. One is that Merkel is looking ahead to her own election and believes that her voters aren’t in line with the less defense oriented plans of her opponents so she’s trying to put some daylight between herself and them. If that’s not the case, was there a phone call from Washington in the past week that we didn’t hear about? It would be in both Trump’s and Merkel’s best interests to keep any such discussions private. But it would allow Trump to eventually point to Germany and say that he got his way without Merkel looking like she was bending the knee for him.
Either way, it’s a worthwhile goal which the President talked about repeatedly on the campaign trail. Here’s hoping that Merkel makes good on this pledge and starts carrying more of the load.