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German defense minister attempts to set Trump straight on how NATO works

One day after a sometimes awkward and seemingly chilly meeting between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump took to Twitter to say Germany owes “vast sums of money” for America’s defense of Germany.

On Sunday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen attempted to set Trump straight.

“There is no debt account at NATO,” von der Leyen said in a statement. She pointed out that NATO’s goal for every member state to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024 didn’t mean spending all of that money on NATO per se.


“Defense spending also goes into U.N. peacekeeping missions, into our European missions, and into our contribution to the fight against IS terrorism,” she said.

Trump also received criticism from Ivo Daalder, a U.S. ambassador to NATO during the Obama administration, who in a series of tweets let the president know, “that’s not how NATO works.”

Germany, like all but five of the 28 NATO member countries, spends less than 2 percent of its GDP on defense. (The U.S., which spends more on defense than any nation on Earth, is among those five.) The NATO countries agreed in 2014 to increase spending on defense to 2 percent of their GDP in the coming decade.

Earlier this month, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it was “completely unrealistic” to expect Germany to start spending an additional 30 billion euros a year on defense — the amount required to meet NATO’s 2 percent goal.

Von der Leyen on Sunday stressed that she wants the burden of defense spending to be shared fairly among NATO countries. She also emphasized a “modern security concept” that includes investment in both NATO and other international bodies, like the UN and a new European defense union.

Germany in 2016 spent 1.18 percent of its GDP on defense, and is set to increase spending to 1.26 percent in 2018.