German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that her country could no longer completely rely upon its friends and allies, and President Trump was not amused with her apparent entitled tone.
The days that Berlin counts on its allies were “over to a certain extent,” Merkel said at a Munich beer hall on Sunday, adding, “we have to know that we must fight for our own, for our destiny as Europeans.”
On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted, seemingly in response to Merkel’s comments:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2017
President Trump is correct in stating that Germany is not meeting its obligations as a member of NATO. By neglecting defense spending, Berlin is creating a void that is unfairly being filled by (mostly) the American taxpayer.
Putting aside the issue of trade deficits, and the argument over its pluses and minuses (if any), the latter half of the Trump tweet hit on an important issue: Germany is indeed paying “far less than they should,” and Berlin is not living up to its commitments as a member of NATO.
While Germany maintains a healthy economy, it spends very little on its national defense as a percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP), leaving the United States to foot the burden in deterring the continued aggression of mutual adversaries like China, Russia, and non-state terrorist actors.
The U.S. pours hundreds of billions of dollars each year into making sure international sea lanes remain open, and that conflict does not break out between rival nations. The United States is the world’s predominant superpower, and with that status comes a certain responsibility that no other nation can fulfill.
However, if countries like Germany (and the 22 other NATO allies that fail to reach the defense spending threshold) were to chip in a little more toward its defense, the United States would not have to subsidize their security, which would free up more cash for domestic priorities.
In 2016, Germany spent only 1.2 percent of its GDP on national defense, which is in violation of its NATO commitment to meet a spending threshold of at least 2 percent. Though Merkel has endorsed a plan to get to that 2 percent threshold, analysts say that there is no serious plan to get Berlin to 2 percent in decades, let alone the near future.
Over the past couple of years, Germany has taken in well over 1million refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa. By the end of 2020, they will have spent close to $100 billion on costs related to their needs. An estimated $29 billion is going to be distributed in the form of welfare payments. Another $10 billion of it will be spent on assimilation costs. That total alone amounts to about as much as Germany spends on defense each year.
Yes, the weakening of NATO empowers our common adversary in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But America had to eventually signal to our allies that the status quo on their defense spending is unacceptable.
Some have argued that the simple act of publicly asking for more from our allies will, in effect, weaken NATO and empower Russia. That’s preposterous. What makes NATO weak is when its members don’t live up to their duties as signatories to the alliance. Trump was right to call out Merkel and the 22 other member states not contributing their share of the cost burden.
It’s time for Chancellor Merkel and Germany to take responsibility for the protection of its sovereignty. Maintaining the 2 percent threshold would ultimately make NATO a stronger institution, allow for a more robust intercontinental defense, and ease the burden of allies’ taxpayers.