WASHINGTON — Germany will continue to increase its defense budget to meet a 2 percent pledge of dollars to support NATO but its top defense official bristled at suggestions that Berlin is not carrying its share of the load.
“I think we know that Germany has to do more. We’ve done a lot more over the last six years since Wales, but not only the financial support of NATO but also (in NATO missions) and we are proud to say that we are the second largest troop contributor so we know there needs to be a fair burden commitment and capabilities in our missions and activities,” Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s defense minister, told Pentagon reporters on Friday.
Germany is currently atop of President Trump’s complaint list regarding NATO nations not meeting a pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024. That agreement was made by NATO members at the Wales conference in 2014.
Last month, the German government announced its goal was to spend 1.5 percent, not the 2 percent it pledged.
“Germany has had for six years a rising defense budget and we are committed to the 2 percent goal,” Von der Leyen said. “We will reach 1.5 percent of defense spending as a portion of GDP in 2024 and afterwards we will be moving towards the 2 percent.”
Pentagon officials, speaking on background, said the numbers are misleading in Germany’s case.
Germany spends $50 billion in its NATO commitment, third among European nations behind the United Kingdom and France.
However, because iGermany’s GDP ranges in the $4 trillion range, the 2 percent mark is closer to $80 billion, they said.
Those numbers do not take into account Germany’s leadership in hosting roughly 35,000 U.S. troops and providing massive training facilities, and being one of the largest troop contributors to the NATO Afghan mission and other battle groups, Pentagon officials said.
“So Germany is contributing to the alliance in many different ways,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters last week.
Trump said, when meeting with Stoltenberg that, “I mean Germany honestly is not paying their fair share…they’re not paying what they should be paying.”