Germany says will boost defence spending, demands clear US agenda

Ursula von der Leyen sieht tragfähige völkerrechtliche Basis für Deutschlands Militäreinsatz in Syrien.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen calls for a big increase in military spending. [Global Panorama/Flickr]

Germany, under fire from US President-elect Donald Trump for not meeting NATO’s defence spending goal, is boosting military budgets, but also wants Trump to map out a consistent foreign policy agenda, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said.

Trump sparked concern among NATO and EU foreign ministers on Monday (16 January) when he said NATO was obsolete and criticised NATO members that failed to meet the alliance’s target of spending 2% of national output on defence.

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NATO is “obsolete”, Germany’s Angela Merkel made a “catastrophic mistake” on refugees, Brexit will be “great” and the US could cut a deal with Russia: Donald Trump unleashed a volley of broadsides on Sunday (15 January) in interviews with European media.

A key Trump adviser on Tuesday said only parts of NATO were obsolete, while Nikki Haley, his nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, said NATO was an important alliance and she did not believe it was obsolete.

“We want the Americans to be clear, ‘What is your agenda,'” German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told German broadcaster NTV. “The most important thing … is reliability.”

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Europe should face Donald Trump with “confidence”, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Monday (16 January), after the US president-elect had predicted that more EU members would leave the bloc and charged that NATO was “obsolete”.

Von der Leyen said Germany was boosting military spending by nearly €2 billion in 2017 to €37bn, or 1.22% of gross domestic product (GDP). It is due to reach €39.2bn by 2020.

“We’re moving in the right direction but we can’t do it in one year,” she told NTV.

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US President Barack Obama pays a farewell visit today (17 November) to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, widely seen as the new standard bearer of liberal democracy since the election of Donald Trump.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in November she did not expect Germany to meet its NATO defence spending target in the near future.

Von der Leyen welcomed support for NATO voiced by Trump’s defence secretary nominee, James Mattis, during his Senate confirmation hearing.

“He’s very reliable,” she said, adding that the Trump administration still had to resolve some issues internally.

A defence ministry spokesman said the German military’s spending on weapons, munitions and other equipment rose by nearly 11% in 2016 to €5.1bn and would increase even more sharply to €6bn this year.

Procurement spending would account for 16.2% of the overall military budget in 2017, up from 14.5% in 2016 and 13.5% in 2015, the spokesman said.

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Foreign policy experts warned that the suggestion by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that he might abandon NATO’s pledge to automatically defend all alliance members could destroy the organization and invite Russian aggression.

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