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berlin brawl

Donald Trump takes Twitter aim at Germany and claims it owes 'vast sums of money'

Trump wants Germany and other nations to contribute more to Nato.

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump unleashed a diatribe against Germany this morning, saying Berlin owes NATO “vast sums of money” and must pay the United States more for security.

His latest tweeted outburst comes a day after he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington, where the two leaders showed little common ground over a host of thorny issues, including NATO and defence spending.

Trump tweeted:

PastedImage-78081 Twitter / realdonaldtrump Twitter / realdonaldtrump / realdonaldtrump

PastedImage-44412 Twitter / Realdonaldtrump Twitter / Realdonaldtrump / Realdonaldtrump

Trump’s insistence that he had a “great meeting” with Merkel appeared to be far from the case on yesterday, when the veteran German leader arrived hoping to reverse a chill in relations after Trump had said during his campaign last year that her decision to allow refugees into Germany was a “catastrophic mistake” and suggested she was “ruining Germany.”

But during a joint news conference, Trump accused Germany of unfair trade practices and ripped into Washington’s NATO allies, demanding they pay back “vast sums of money from past years.”

Merkel said Germany had committed to increasing its military spending to two percent of GDP, a target NATO member states formally agreed in 2014 to reach within 10 years.

A German government spokesman declined to comment about Trump’s tweets on Saturday, referring AFP to Merkel’s statements on the subject during Friday’s news conference.

Merkel meets Trump Merkel and Trump in the White House yesterday. DPA / PA Images DPA / PA Images / PA Images

Treaty commitment

Trump had made European defence spending an issue during his campaign, saying the United States — which spends just over three percent of its GDP on defence — carries too much of the financial burden for supporting NATO.

However, critics pointed out on Saturday that NATO members don’t pay the United States for security, but contribute by spending on their own militaries.

“Sorry, Mr President, that’s not how NATO works,” tweeted Ivo Daalder, a former US ambassador to NATO.

“This is not a financial transaction, where NATO countries pay the US to defend them. It is part of our treaty commitment.”

US defence spending — $679 billion in 2016 — accounts for nearly 70% of the total defence budgets of NATO’s 28 members.

But member states resolved to increase their defence spending after the dramatic events of 2014, when Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula Crimea from Ukraine and began backing separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Then, the Islamic State group declared a “caliphate” just across NATO’s southern border in Syria and Iraq.

NATO members agreed on a ten-year plan to each increase their national defence spending to two percent of their respective GDPs.

Five — the UK, Estonia, Greece, Poland and the United States — have met that goal. Three more — Latvia, Lithuania and Romania — are expected to do so this year.

Last year, according to the alliance, 23 of the 28 member states increased their defence spending in real terms, the first time that has happened in more than two decades.

PastedImage-6489 Merkel and Trump take questions at yesterday's press conference. Facebook / TheWhiteHouse Facebook / TheWhiteHouse / TheWhiteHouse

Added value

Germany, whose militaristic past has led it traditionally to be reticent on defence matters, currently spends 1.2% of GDP.

But the country’s defence minister has called for changes to the way NATO members’ commitments to budget targets are assessed.

PastedImage-67115 Trump stands before the US and German flags. Facebook / TheWhiteHouse Facebook / TheWhiteHouse / TheWhiteHouse

Speaking on Friday ahead of Merkel’s trip to Washington, Ursula von der Leyen told AFP that the 2% target paints an incomplete picture of actual contributions, saying member states that take part in NATO operations and exercises or contribute personnel and hardware should get credit toward the two percent goal.

“For me, the question is who is really providing added value to the alliance,” she said.

Von der Leyen proposed using an “activity index” that would take participation in foreign missions into account when assessing budget earmarks for defence.

© – AFP 2017

Read: Donald Trump tried to joke about wiretapping with Angela Merkel. She didn’t laugh >

Read: German police make two arrests after hostage taken at bank >

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