Washington: President Donald Trump, less than 24 hours after a first meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel that highlighted their divides on policy and personality, said Germany must pay the US more for providing defence.
“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!” Trump told his almost 27 million Twitter followers early Saturday.
The president wrote that he’d had a “GREAT meeting with” Merkel. There was no immediate response to Trump’s comments from German officials.
Trump’s messages came less than a day after Merkel, at their joint White House press conference, tweaked Trump about his criticisms of her and others on social media.
“In the period leading up to this visit, I’ve always said it’s much, much better to talk to one another and not about one another, and I think our conversation proved this,” the German leader said through a translator.
Trump on Friday said he had “reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for Nato, as well as the need for our Nato allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defence.” He said “many nations owe vast sums of money from past years and it is very unfair to the United States.”
Trump isn’t the first US leader to complain that most Nato nations, including Germany, weren’t meeting the alliance’s goal that members spend 2% of their GDP on defence. Germany spends about 1.2% on defence now. President Barack Obama in 2016 said in an interview that “free riders aggravate me.” Germany’s foreign minister a few weeks ago said that meeting the 2% goal is “unrealistic,” though that is a much lower percentage than the United States spends on defence.
Friday’s visit by Merkel, postponed from earlier in the week by a snowstorm, was a day of tense cordiality and sometimes awkward body language. Trump was unresponsive when Merkel leaned in for a handshake in the Oval Office at the request of photographers.
There were few public attempts at the jocularity leaders often use to leaven such encounters, except for a barbed reference Trump made that they had “in common, perhaps” the experience of surveillance by US intelligence. Merkel didn’t crack a smile at the joke.
The visit was a test of Trump’s foreign policy vision as he welcomed a leader who not only represents Europe’s biggest economy, but has emerged as the most visible advocate of the post-World War II international order. The new US president, a political novice before the 2016 campaign, had his first face-to-face talks with a veteran German leader whom he frequently maligned on the campaign trail, and whose free-trade, open-border politics stand in marked contrast to Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric. Bloomberg