Posts Tagged ‘military spending’

German army mulls recruiting foreign EU nationals to boost recruitment

July 22, 2018

While both governing parties supported the idea, the SPD said that citizenship must be given to new soldiers to avoid the risk of it becoming a mercenary army.

    
German soldiers

Germany’s long-understaffed army has a new plan to boost recruitment: allowing foreigners from other European Union countries to serve in the unified armed forces (Bundeswehr). The defense ministry confirmed on Saturday that it was seriously considering the idea.

“The Bundeswehr is growing. For this, we need qualified personnel,” a Defense Ministry spokesman told German news agency DPA.

SPD: No mercenary army

Speaking with local newspaper Augsburger Allegemeine, Social Democrat (SPD) defense expert Karl-Heinz Brunner said that he could imagine EU citizens serving in the Bundeswehr. But he warned that any soldier who fought for Germany must be promised citizenship.

“If citizens of other countries are accepted, without the promise of getting a German passport, the Bundeswehr risks becoming a mercenary army.”

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen reviewing troops in BerlinDefense Minister Ursula von der Leyen reviewing troops in Berlin

In comments to the same publication, Christian Democraic Union (CDU) defense spokesman Florian Hahn said that “using the framework of European liberalism, a modern model could be developed here. However, a certain level of trust with every solider must be guaranteed.”

Germany’s army has had staffing issues together with problems such as outdated equipment, and lack of necessary supplies.

Proposals to increase the defense budget are extremely unpopular in Germany, especially considering the country’s history. The center-right CDU and their center-left coalition partners in the SPD have repeatedly been at loggerheads over defense spending.

es/jm (AFP, dpa)

https://www.dw.com/en/german-army-mulls-recruiting-foreign-eu-nationals-to-boost-recruitment/a-44775125

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1 in 10 German military pilots lost helicopter licenses for lack of flight time

http://www.dw.com/en/1-in-10-german-military-pilots-lost-helicopter-licenses-for-lack-of-flight-time/a-43646369

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U.S. President Donald Trump meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Washington

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For America’s Allies, Donald Trump’s Behavior is Hard to Watch

July 22, 2018

He represents the opposite of liberal internationalism.

Image result for donald trump, NATO, photos

U.S. President Donald Trump poses with fellow world leaders during a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, May 25, 2017. Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
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The past two weeks have been tough for Atlanticists in Europe who still think we shouldn’t give up on the United States. President Trump almost wrecked a NATO summit, he offended his hosts in Britain, and he called the European Union a “foe” of the United States, all the while cozying up to Vladimir Putin, a “good competitor.”

For months, Europeans concerned about the president’s statements have been reassured by American friends: Ignore the tweets, focus on what the administration does, and trust our checks and balances. That made some sense. Senior cabinet members like the secretary of defense have remained committed to the liberal international order and to America’s alliances and partnerships. Congress has strongly supported NATO. And American troops still guarantee Europe’s security.

But in international relations, it’s not only deeds that matter; words also do, especially the American president’s.

Let’s face it: Mr. Trump’s core beliefs conflict with the foundations of Western grand strategy since the mid-1940s. He believes America is getting a bad deal from its European allies. He expresses admiration for autocrats like Kim Jong-un and Mr. Putin, while reserving his most acidic comments for democratic partners like Germany’s Angela Merkel and Canada’s Justin Trudeau. He represents the opposite of liberal internationalism.

Commentary
By Wolfgang Ischinger

Mr. Ischinger served as Germany’s ambassador to the United States from 2001 to 2006.

The New York Times

Image result for trump, merkel, g-7, canada, photos
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to US President Donald Trump during the second day of the G7 meeting in Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, on 9 June. Photo: Reuters
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That sends Europe a sad message: The era of America’s benign hegemony may be over, with Europe extremely ill prepared.

On July 11 and 12, Mr. Trump undercut a NATO summit that was yielding results: reaffirming a goal for members to strengthen the alliance by spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on the military by 2024. While European military spending has been rising for some time, Mr. Trump was correct in saying that some members, including Germany, aren’t doing enough. He also has legitimate concerns about trade imbalances.

Still, his mischaracterization of the goal as “dues” owed to America makes it harder for European leaders to ask their voters for increased military spending. And his bullying comments led Europeans to suspect he might be more interested in leaving the alliance than in leading it.

Such implied threats attack the foundation of the alliance: the idea of solidarity and commitment to one another’s security. Americans tell us Mr. Trump can’t leave NATO without Senate consent — a debatable notion that misses the point. Any doubt about America’s commitment hurts the credibility of NATO’s deterrence.

That is what makes Mr. Trump’s statements so dangerous. They may extract a few billion dollars for defense spending, but they destroy the assurances that those dollars — or euros — are meant to bolster.

Those uncertainties were magnified by the president’s bizarre appearance with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Mr. Trump in effect disavowed his own intelligence community. He failed to declare Russian meddling in Western democracies unacceptable. If Mr. Putin does not feel emboldened now, when will he? Who will now believe that interfering in democratic elections comes at a price? Mr. Trump’s performance seemed to indicate that America is ready to give up its ambition to be the free world’s respected leader.

That was painful for America’s European friends and allies to watch. Throughout the Trump presidency, we have tried to preserve a close partnership with America, influence the Trump administration and safeguard European interests.

It hasn’t worked. Mr. Trump ignored our concerns by leaving the Paris climate pact and the Iran nuclear deal, and he slapped tariffs on his closest allies.

Why, then, should Europeans consider this administration a trustworthy partner? A recent ZDF Politbarometer poll found that only 9 percent of Germans do.

But there is no realistic Plan B yet, posing a conundrum: Europeans cannot simply go it alone, but we must prepare to be left alone. So we must develop a Plan B. Duck and cover will not suffice.

First, Europe needs a dual-track approach. We should strengthen our military readiness and decision-making capacity while showing the White House more clearly that its actions have costs for America. We also must address some of Mr. Trump’s justified concerns, like increasing military spending — but in our own interest, rather than to please him.

We should also offer to work closely with those Americans who believe that a strong partnership with Europe remains in America’s best interest. Europeans need to engage, engage, engage: with Congress, with governors, with America’s business community and civil society.

But can we rely on the American system of government to work as promised? Now is the time to check and balance! At the risk of “meddling”: Are there Republican senators willing to refuse to vote for any Trump appointee unless he stops denigrating his own intelligence community?

Security should not be an issue that pits the United States against Europe. Many Western societies are divided between those who believe in preserving the post-World War II order and those who would replace it with 19th-century nationalism.

Europeans who believe that abandoning the Western liberal order would be an extraordinary act of stupidity must step up our game. But we won’t succeed without strong support from like-minded friends across the Atlantic. American patriots, will you work with us?

Donald Trump has profound doubts about the Nato alliance

July 14, 2018
The US president is making common cause with Europe’s nationalists
Image may contain: 12 people, people smiling

The US president Donald Trump clearly has profound doubts about, or even hostility to, the Nato alliance © Getty

Even by Donald Trump’s standards, it has been quite a week’s work. On a trip to Europe, the US president hinted that America might withdraw from Nato. In Britain, he gravely undermined his host, Theresa May, by suggesting that her approach to Brexit was “very unfortunate”. The US president also gave succour to the far-right, by denigrating the impact of immigration on Europe, arguing that “it’s changing the culture, it’s very negative”.

Given this record, it is little wonder that America’s European allies are fretting about Mr Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Helsinki on Monday.

It is true that in a press conference yesterday, Mr Trump made an effort to repair some of the damage. He heaped praise on the UK prime minister and claimed that he had extracted promises of vastly increased defence spending from other Nato nations. For a man who prizes his reputation for straight-talking, the US president is remarkably adept at sending out mixed messages.

The overall impact of Mr Trump’s visit to Europe was disastrous. The US president clearly has profound doubts about, or even hostility to, the Nato alliance. It is true that the Obama administration, too, was openly exasperated by Europe’s low level of defence spending. But military budgets have actually been increasing in Europe since 2014. And Mr Trump has displayed a level of contempt for European allies, in particular Germany, that is unprecedented from a US president.

It is now evident that Mr Trump is not intent simply on defending American interests, as he perceives them. Instead, he is actively intervening in European politics — to promote the agendas of nationalist parties that are his ideological soulmates.

In the process, he is more than willing to damage mainstream centre-right politicians such as the German chancellor Angela Merkel and Mrs May.

The US president’s interview with The Sun newspaper echoed the main talking points of Mrs May’s “hard Brexit” opponents, by arguing that her approach betrays the spirit of the vote to leave the EU.

Trump ‘OK’ with UK Brexit plan

His suggestion that the May government’s policies will also make it much harder to do a trade deal with the US is probably accurate. But it deliberately weakens the UK prime minister at a time when her government has been rocked by a series of resignations — including the departure of Boris Johnson, whom Mr Trump praised as a potentially “great prime minister”.

Some of Mr Trump’s defenders point out that President Obama also intervened in the UK’s Brexit debate, by suggesting that Britain would be “at the back of the queue” to negotiate a trade deal with America. But Mr Obama’s remarks were made in support of the anti-Brexit stance of the then UK government, led by David Cameron. That was a case of a US president supporting a sitting British prime minister. Mr Trump is doing the opposite — by sticking the knife into the current occupant of 10 Downing Street.

In the same way, Mr Trump’s remarks on immigration challenge the positions of key European allies such as Ms Merkel and France’s president Emmanuel Macron. Both face strong opposition from far-right parties that share his view that mass immigration is undermining European culture. Trump-style populists are already in government in Italy, Hungary, Poland and Austria.

The US president is clearly intent on forming a new kind of transatlantic alliance with insurgent political forces. In the process, he is recklessly undermining stability in Europe and damaging America’s long-term interests.

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https://www.ft.com/content/85c17268-868b-11e8-a29d-73e3d454535d

NATO summit: Trump hails alliance spending promises after crisis meeting

July 12, 2018

Donald Trump spoke positively of an unscheduled and reportedly discordant emergency meeting with 28 other NATO countries. He spent much of the two-day summit lambasting allies for failing to spend enough on defense.

    
U.S. President Donald Trump checks time prior to a dinner of leaders at the Art and History Museum at the Park Cinquantenaire in Brussels on July 11, 2018 (Getty Images/AFP/G. vanden Wijngaert)

US President Donald Trump on Thursday said he was “very, very happy” after NATO allies agreed to unspecified commitments to increase their defense spending, striking a conciliatory tone after two days of tense alliance talks in Brussels.

Trump said he had been “extremely unhappy” with allies’ low levels of defense spending before the summit, but was pleased “they have substantially upped their commitment” during a “fantastic” unscheduled crisis meeting on Thursday morning.

“We made a tremendous amount of progress today,” he said, adding, “NATO is much stronger now than it was two days ago.”

NATO leaders held the emergency session to discuss US President Donald Trump’s repeated demands that allies meet the a pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Sources close to the talks told DW’s Teri Schultz that Trump demanded European NATO members meet the alliance target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense immediately, rather than increase spending gradually as agreed to at a previous NATO summit in 2014.

Teri Schultz

@terischultz

Sources say Trump used this morning’s meeting on Ukraine and Georgia to one-up his demand for more European defense spending — insisting that the 2% be reached now, not just incremental increases by 2024 as stated at Wales

Trump’s 4 percent target

Earlier in the day, he wrote on Twitter that every NATO country needed to meet the 2 percent target, adding that spending “must ultimately go to 4 percent!”

Trump also singled out Germany over its low-levels of defense spending — it currently spends 1.24 percent of its GDP on defense — and renewed his criticism of a controversial gas pipeline deal between Germany and Russia made a day earlier.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable! All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!

Trump’s ire

Only three NATO members currently meet the 2 percent target, while five are expected to do so this year. Trump has repeatedly denounced low levels of defense spending among remaining members, particularly Germany.

The issue dominated the president’s public remarks after he arrived in Brussels on Tuesday, striking fear among European officials that the president would question the US’ role in the alliance.

amp/rc (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

Trump criticism on defence spending prompt special session at NATO summit

July 12, 2018

US President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack on NATO allies’ failure to raise defence spending on Thursday, prompting leaders to huddle in a special session excluding other summit participants.

At one point, in a break with diplomatic protocol, a source said Trump addressed German Chancellor Merkel by her first name and told her: “Angela, you need to do something about this.”

© Benoit Doppagne, Pool, AFP | Belgian PM Charles Michel (2L) and his partner Amelie Derbaudrenghien (L) greet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Brussels on July 11, 2018.
“We had a very intense summit,” Merkel herself told reporters after the meeting. Trump also prepared to make a previously unscheduled public statement, the White House said.

Invited leaders from non-NATO countries Afghanistan and Georgia were asked to leave along with most NATO leaders’ retinues of officials, as the heads of state and government of the Western alliance sought to deal with the man whose nation
commands much of the budget and forces for Europe’s defence.

Trump had opened the first day of talks in Brussels on Wednesday with a public diatribe against Germany, the second biggest state in the Western defense alliance, before the mood appeared to have calmed as the summit went into its second day, focusing on operations beyond Europe.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

NATO Members Defend Military Contributions Amid Trump’s Demands

July 12, 2018

Germany says sole focus on spending is misplaced as U.S. president presses allies to target to 4%

Delegations arrive for a working session of NATO leaders in Brussels a day after President Donald Trump pressed allies to double their military spending target to 4% of GDP.
Delegations arrive for a working session of NATO leaders in Brussels a day after President Donald Trump pressed allies to double their military spending target to 4% of GDP. PHOTO: SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGES

BRUSSELS—President Donald Trump’s demand at the NATO summit for members to double military-spending commitments has reignited a debate among allies about what constitutes contributions to the alliance.

At the start of two days of meeting with NATO leaders, Mr. Trump signaled he would push the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to raise its defense-spending target—currently obliging members to spend 2% of economic output on defense—to as high as 4%. Only the U.S. spends more than 3%, with seven other countries above or near the 2% level.

In a tweet Thursday morning, Mr. Trump reiterated his new target.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable! All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!

But Germany, which has been in Mr. Trump’s crosshairs for spending only 1.24% of its gross domestic product on defense, said the sole focus on military spending is misplaced.

“I would like to see the businessman Donald Trump…not only look at the balance sheet, but also look at the output,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on the sidelines of the alliance gathering.

Germany, she said, is the second-largest troop contributor to NATO and the second-largest net payer into the alliance. Germany pays 14% of NATO’s annual budget, behind only the U.S., which finances 22%.

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, French President Emmanuel Macron, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg and U.S. President Donald Trump
Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, French President Emmanuel Macron, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg and U.S. President Donald TrumpPHOTO: POOL/REUTERS
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Germany’s position was echoed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after Canada at the summit agreed to lead a new NATO training mission in Iraq. “A lot of people talk about the 2%,” Mr. Trudeau said Wednesday. “Announcing money put in, announcing inputs, isn’t nearly as important as demonstrating outputs.”

NATO members this year are poised to spend around $1 trillion on defense combined, dominated by $706 billion from the U.S. If all NATO members made their 2% commitment, alliance spending would rise by roughly $110 billion, a NATO official said. The amount is roughly equivalent to the combined French and British defense budgets. A spending level of 4% would boost overall NATO spending by roughly 50%.

Mr. Trump has said the imbalance is “unfair” to the U.S. During the summit, he tweeted “the U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billion on Trade.” He said European NATO members needed to reach the 2% spending target immediately, rather than by the agreed deadline of 2024. The U.S. now spends 3.5% of GDP on defense, according to NATO.

How much of the U.S. money actually benefits NATO is a matter of debate. NATO data includes all U.S. military spending but the outlays are spread far wider. The U.S. has large military forces in Japan and South Korea. Others are in the Middle East and Africa. Much of the U.S. Navy is oriented toward the Pacific Ocean.

“At least some political claims about the “burden” seem to grossly exaggerate the size and cost of the U.S. forces actually dedicated to European defense, and ignore the value to the U.S. of forward deployments and staging capabilities in Europe, along with the value of allied forces in supporting the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Anthony H. Cordesman, analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said in a recent report.

Calculating the U.S. contribution is difficult, because some military capabilities, such as the flotilla of aircraft carriers or the fleet of B-2 bombers based in the U.S., can support military operations globally.

Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, defense economics research fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, estimates the U.S. contributes about $36 billion directly to European security. European NATO members spend $286 billion, according to NATO data.

“America is spending its defense dollars principally for its own security needs, as well as to support a range of interests and allies in other regions around the world, not exclusively Europe,” Ms. Béraud-Sudreau said.

Write to Robert Wall at robert.wall@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/nato-members-defend-military-contributions-amid-trumps-demands-1531382425

NATO summit focus shifts to Afghanistan

July 12, 2018

AFP and Reuters

© Benoit Doppagne, Pool, AFP | Belgian PM Charles Michel (2L) and his partner Amelie Derbaudrenghien (L) greet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Brussels on July 11, 2018.

NATO leaders will try on Thursday to move beyond Donald Trump’s demands for higher defence spending, and focus on ending the long war in Afghanistan, in the second day of a summit in Brussels underscored by transatlantic tensions.

On a trip that will also take the U.S. president to Britain and to Helsinki to meet Russia’s Vladimir PutinTrump spent the first day of the NATO summit lambasting allies for failing to spend the targeted 2 percent of GDP on defence and accused Germany of being a prisoner to Russian energy.

On day two, leaders will welcome non-NATO partners including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko to the alliance’s new glass-and-steel headquarters as they seek to focus on policy rather than politics.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May tried to set the tone on Wednesday by announcing more troops for NATO’s Afghan training mission.

“We will be deploying an additional 440 personnel to NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan and I think that shows when NATO calls, the UK is one of the first to step up,” May told reporters.

NATO’s chief Jens Stoltenberg wants leaders to agree to fund Afghan security forces until 2024, despite public fatigue in Western countries about their involvement in the conflict.

Funding has averaged at about $1 billion annually and Stoltenberg has said he expected that level to be met.

Leaders will be keen to hear more about Trump’s military approach to Afghanistan, which he revamped last August to include a surge in air strikes to force Taliban militants to the negotiating table.

U.S. officials have told Reuters Washington is preparing another review of strategy, a year after Trump begrudgingly agreed to extend involvement in the 17-year-old war.

Trump was opposed to remaining in America’s longest war, but his advisers convinced him to give it more time. He authorized the deployment an additional 3,000 troops, bringing the total to around 15,000.

At the summit, leaders will discuss ties with Georgia and Ukraine, two NATO membership hopefuls who contribute to troop levels in Afghanistan but have seen their chances of joining the alliance hampered by Russian incursions into their territory.

Under NATO rules, countries with territorial conflicts cannot join the Western alliance and neither country is expected to progress in membership talks.

Macedonia, however, which was formally invited to start accession talks on Wednesday, will be part of a special ceremony on Thursday as the alliance sets the stage for expanding to its 30th member state.

(REUTERS)

NATO grapples over key policies in shadow of Trump’s tough talk

July 12, 2018

NATO leaders will seek to dampen a febrile atmosphere as their summit wraps up Thursday with talks on Afghanistan and Ukraine, after US President Donald Trump stung allies with a shock demand to double defence spending.

The summit in Brussels is shaping up as the alliance’s most difficult in years, against a backdrop of growing unease about the threat from Russia and deepening transatlantic tensions in fields ranging from trade to energy.

©AFP | Trump has set a bombastic tone for the talks, unleashing a barrage of criticism against European allieset a bombastic tone for the talks, unleashing a barrage of criticism against European allies, including a clash with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The US president, who has said his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week “may be the easiest” part of his European tour, kicked off the NATO meeting with a blistering attack on Germany, calling it a “captive” of Moscow because of its gas links.

He also demanded NATO members up their defence outlay to four percent of GDP, from the current target of two percent within 10 years agreed at a 2014 summit in Wales.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev confirmed that Trump had made the demand and asked what it meant for the future of the alliance that has been the bedrock of European security for 70 years.

“NATO is not a stock exchange where you can buy security. NATO is an alliance of sovereign countries united by strategic targets and common values,” he told reporters.

But all 29 NATO leaders including Trump backed a joint statement committing themselves to greater “burden sharing” and to the alliance’s founding commitment that an attack on one member is an attack on them all — with no mention of the four percent.

– Friends like these –

The mood was already prickly ahead of the summit, prompting a terse exhortation from the European Union’s President Donald Tusk for Trump to “appreciate” his allies and reminding him that Europe had come to its aid following the 9/11 attacks.

Trump has explicitly linked NATO with a transatlantic trade row by saying the EU shut out US business while expecting America to defend it.

The US leader has also singled out Germany for particular criticism over its defence spending.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, spends just 1.24 percent, compared with 3.5 percent for the US.

Trump has taken particular aim at the proposed Nord Stream II gas pipeline, which is set to run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

“Everybody’s talking about it all over the world, they’re saying we’re paying you billions of dollars to protect you but you’re paying billions of dollars to Russia,” he said Wednesday at a breakfast meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, shot back that she knew what it meant to be under Kremlin domination and was glad a united Germany was now able to “make our own independent policies and make our own independent decisions”.

The pair later met for a one-on-one meeting and while Trump insisted they had a “very very good relationship”, their frosty body language suggested otherwise.

– Kremlin concerns –

European diplomats are wary of a repeat of last month’s divisive G7 in Canada, when Trump clashed with his Western allies before meeting Kim Jong Un at a summit, where he praised the North Korean leader as “very talented”.

Trump will meet the Russian leader in Helsinki on July 16 for their first summit amid an ongoing investigation in the US into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia.

There have been fears that Trump, keen to be seen to make a breakthrough with the Kremlin strongman, might make concessions that would weaken Western unity over issues like Ukraine and Syria.

Trump heads to Britain on Thursday, where the government is in crisis over Brexit and where tensions with Russia have spiked after London blamed Moscow for the death this month of a British woman from contact with the Novichok nerve agent.

The substance is the same military-grade toxin that nearly killed a former Russian spy and his daughter in an earlier attack that Britain also blamed on Moscow.

AFP

Trump and Merkel Clash at NATO Summit Over Defense Spending, Russian Gas Deal

July 11, 2018
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U.S. president calls Germany ‘captive to Russia’ because of gas pipeline deal

President Donald Trump, shown talking to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, began his visit to Europe by accusing Angela Merkel and Germany of being “captive to Russia.”
President Donald Trump, shown talking to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, began his visit to Europe by accusing Angela Merkel and Germany of being “captive to Russia.” PHOTO: MARKUS SCHREIBER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

BRUSSELS—The NATO summit opened Wednesday to an acrimonious start as President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel exchanged heated barbs over Berlin’s defense spending and support for a major gas deal with Russia.

Mr. Trump began his visit by accusing Germany of being “captive to Russia” because of its support for Nord Stream 2, an offshore pipeline that would bring gas directly from Russia via the Baltic Sea.

Speaking in a meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Mr. Trump called Germany’s support for the project “very sad,” and said, “We’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.”

Turning to Mr. Stoltenberg, he said: “Explain that.”

Mr. Trump also criticized Germany’s defense spending as “inappropriate,” and called for NATO allies to increase their defense spending while saying the U.S. was “spending far too much” on defense.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel fired back that Germany makes “independent policies” and “independent decisions” and reminded the U.S. that Germany has the largest share of its defense spending that goes into NATO.

Recalling her own experience living in a part of Germany that was controlled by the Soviet Union, she said, “I am very happy today that we are united in freedom…Because of that, we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions.”

The clash between the two leaders deepened the tense atmosphere surrounding the summit, where leaders had been bracing themselves following months of attacks from Mr. Trump on allies’ defense spending levels, and dashed the hopes of diplomats and some U.S. officials for a meeting that would showcase unity ahead of Mr. Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.

A NATO official said that expectations were very low for the summit, given Mr. Trump’s unabashed criticism of Germany. “The mood ahead of the G-7 was also quite bad and still it ended worse than expected,” the official said.

Mr. Trump and Ms. Merkel are set to meet later Wednesday on the sidelines of the summit, and the president is expected to reiterate his concerns about German support for the Russian gas deal, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

The two leaders have had a tense relationship under the Trump administration, as Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked Germany’s defense spending and immigration policies. The pair at one point went five months without speaking—a rarity for two nations that have been close allies in recent decades.

Mr. Trump’s criticism of Germany’s relationship with Russia comes days before he is set to meet with Mr. Putin in Helsinki in an effort to reset U.S. relations with Moscow. He has met frequent criticism in Washington for appearing overly friendly toward Mr. Putin, including when he congratulated the Russian leader on his election victory earlier this year despite being advised by national security officials not to do so.

Many NATO allies also are wary of Mr. Trump’s efforts to improve relations with Mr. Putin, whom he has often praised even during a continued investigation into Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. Several nations, including the U.K., expressed concern about Mr. Trump’s call earlier this year for Russia to rejoin the G-7, four years after it was expelled over its annexation of Crimea.

German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said of Mr. Trump’s comments on the gas project: “I don’t really understand what he means by that.”

Poland’s foreign minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, also criticized the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project that Germany backs. At an event on the sidelines of the summit, he called the project a “mistake.”

Germany is the biggest importer of natural gas from Russia in the EU, accounting for more than 20% of the purchases in 2017 by the 28-member bloc, according to the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat. Russian imports made up about 40% of Germany’s annual gas purchases for the past two years.

After leaving the NATO summit early Thursday afternoon, Mr. Trump will continue his seven-day swing through Europe with a meet in London with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May before traveling on to Scotland, where he owns two golf courses, and finally Helsinki.

President Donald Trump speaks to NATO members during the bilateral breakfast at the start of the two-day summit.
President Donald Trump speaks to NATO members during the bilateral breakfast at the start of the two-day summit. PHOTO: PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has clashed with several of the world leaders attending the NATO summit. Following the G-7 summit in Canada last month, the president tweeted that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was “dishonest” and “weak.” He also tangled with French President Emmanuel Macron over tariffs, after Mr. Macron said the six other nations would band together without the U.S. if necessary.

Mr. Trump is set to meet with Mr. Macron later Wednesday.

As Mr. Trump shook hands with Mr. Stoltenberg at the outset of their meeting Wednesday morning, he quipped that the secretary-general liked him.

“He may be the only one,” Mr. Trump added. “But that’s OK with me.”

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com and Valentina Pop

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-calls-for-allies-to-increase-defense-spending-at-start-of-nato-summit-1531297516

Trump slams ‘captive’ Germany at NATO summit — NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg taken by surprise

July 11, 2018

US President Donald Trump launched a blistering attack on Germany at the start of a tense NATO summit Wednesday, accusing Berlin of being “captive” to Russia and demanding it and other allies immediately step up defence spending.

The two-day meet in Brussels was already shaping up to be the alliance’s most difficult in years, with Europe and the US engaged in a bitter trade spat and Trump demanding that NATO allies “reimburse” Washington for the cost of defending the continent.

European allliance members were braced for criticism from Trump on defence spending, but his furious tirade at what should have been an amicable breakfast meeting appeared to take even NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg by surprise.

© AFP | President Donald Trump’s furious tirade against NATO appeared to take even the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) by surprise

“Germany is a captive of Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump said, taking particular aim at the proposed Nord Stream II pipeline.

“Everybody’s talking about it all over the world, they’re saying we’re paying you billions of dollars to protect you but you’re paying billions of dollars to Russia.”

Trump has long complained that European NATO members do not pay enough for their own defence, accusing them of freeloading on America and singling out Germany for particular criticism.

Europe’s biggest economy spends just 1.24 percent of GDP on defence, compared with 3.5 percent for the US, well below the NATO guideline of two percent.

“We’re protecting Germany, France and everybody… this has been going on for decades,” Trump said. “We’re not going to put up with it and it’s inappropriate.”

NATO officials and diplomats will try to promote an image of unity at the summit in the face of growing unease about the threat from Russia, but after Trump’s attack it may prove diffcult to paper over the cracks.

The mercurial tycoon said before leaving Washington that his meeting in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday “may be the easiest” part of his European tour, which also includes a trip to Britain, where the government is in crisis over Brexit.

And he vowed not to be “taken advantage” of by the European Union, which he accuses of relying on the United States for defence while restricting US imports into the bloc, the world’s biggest market.

– ‘Appreciate your allies’ –

The meeting of 29 Western leaders has the potential to descend into another public bust-up following a divisive and bad-tempered summit of G7 nations in Canada last month.

Trump ramped up his rhetoric ahead of the talks, explicitly linking NATO with the transatlantic trade row.

“The European Union makes it impossible for our farmers and workers and companies to do business in Europe (U.S. has a $151 Billion trade deficit), and then they want us to happily defend them through NATO, and nicely pay for it. Just doesn?t work!” he tweeted as he arrived in Brussels late on Tuesday.

European officials have expressed hopes that NATO members can bridge their differences but EU President Donald Tusk launched his own salvo against Trump on Tuesday.

“Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many,” Tusk said, before reminding Trump that European troops had come to America’s aid following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

“Please remember this tomorrow when we meet at the NATO summit, but above all when you meet President Putin in Helsinki. It is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem,” he said.

Trump will meet the Russian leader in the Finnish capital on July 16 for their first summit amid an ongoing investigation in the US into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia.

European diplomats fear a repeat of the G7, when Trump clashed with his Western allies, withdrawing from a joint statement and calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest and weak” before meeting North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at a summit afterwards and praising him as “very talented”.

There have been fears that Trump, keen to be seen to make a breakthrough with the Kremlin strongman, might make concessions that would weaken Western unity over issues such as Ukraine and Syria.

Trump set the stage for clashes at the summit by writing to around a dozen allies to berate them for lagging on a 2014 pledge to try to spend two percent of GDP on defence by 2024.

US ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters that Trump would also recommit to one of the founding articles of NATO — Article 5 — which holds that an attack on one member is an attack on them all.

AFP