News & Politics

Trump Handed Merkel a £300 Billion Invoice for NATO Defense

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

During his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this month, President Donald Trump reportedly gave the chancellor an invoice totaling £300 billion. The bill represents the amount Trump says Germany owes NATO going back to 2002, when then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder promised to increase German contributions to the Atlantic alliance.

Also included in the invoice was £50 billion in interest.

Merkel reportedly ignored the invoice. But the insult has not gone unnoticed in Berlin, with a German government official being quoted by the Times of London as calling the move “outrageous.”

Independent:

Angela Merkel will reportedly ignore Donald Trump’s attempts to extricate £300bn from Germany for what he deems to be owed contributions to Nato.

The US President is said to have had an “invoice” printed out outlining the sum estimated by his aides as covering Germany’s unpaid contributions for defence.

Said to be presented during private talks in Washington, the move has been met with criticism from German and Nato officials.

While the figure presented to the Germans was not revealed by either side, Nato countries pledged in 2014 to spend two per cent of their GDP on defence, something only a handful of nations – including the UK, Greece, Poland and Estonia – currently do.

But the bill has been backdated even further to 2002, the year Mrs Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, pledged to spend more on defence.

Mr Trump reportedly instructed aides to calculate how much German spending fell below two per cent over the past 12 years, then added interest.

Estimates suggest the total came to £300bn, with official figures citing the shortfall to be around £250bn plus £50bn in interest added on.

The Times quoted a German government minister as saying the move was “outrageous”.

The unnamed minister said: “The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the Chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations.”

And the paper quoted a source close to Mrs Merkel saying she has “ignored the provocation”.

The bill follows a disastrous meeting between the pair earlier this month, characterised by Mr Trump’s refusal to shake his peer’s hand.

A day after the meeting, Mr Trump tweeted: “Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with the Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Nevertheless, Germany owes … vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

The bill was a symbolic way for Trump to get his message across that he believes Germany owes the U.S. and NATO billions of dollars. I doubt if Trump seriously believed he was giving the German chancellor a bill for services rendered, although that’s the way the left is playing up the gesture.

But like Hillary Clinton’s red reset button, this little bit of symbolic theater apparently backfired.  The Germans are none too pleased to be singled out for non-payment to NATO and they vigorously dispute the idea that they “owe” any money at all. Trump can harangue all he wants but he’s not going to squeeze an extra cent out of any NATO country. They are, after all, democracies — and if the voters don’t want to spend more on defense, the governments can hardly be expected to violate their wishes.

If that means that the U.S. will take its bombs, planes, and tanks and go home, so be it, says Germany. They aren’t going to respond to symbols like the invoice or jawboning from President Trump.

The Trump administration is not off to a good start with NATO, given the invoice incident and Secretary Tillerson’s on-again, off-again attendance at a NATO foreign ministers meeting. It looks like the world’s oldest and most successful alliance is headed for the scrap heap of history unless President Trump can find a justification for the U.S. to remain in NATO.