President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested NATO leaders increase their defense spending to 4% – doubling the 2% target that many NATO countries have yet to meet.
“During the President’s remarks today at the NATO summit he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2% of their GDP on defense spending, but that they increase it to 4%,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed in a statement.
Sanders said Trump “raised this same issue” at NATO last year.
“President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations,” Sanders said.
But according to the latest numbers from NATO, the US doesn’t even spend as much as Trump is calling on other countries to.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump said the US, “in actual numbers,” is spending 4.2% of its GDP on defense. However, according to numbers just released by NATO on Tuesday, the US is expected to spend an estimated 3.5% of the GDP on defense in 2018. That is lower than last year’s number, which was at 3.57%. Germany’s estimated for 2018 is 1.21%, slightly higher than last year’s.
“On top of that, Germany is just paying a little bit over 1%, whereas the United States, in actual numbers, is paying 4.2% of a much larger GDP,” Trump said during a breakfast with the NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
“So I think that’s inappropriate also. You know, we’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France. We’re protecting everybody. And yet we’re paying a lot of money to protect,” Trump said.
One senior European diplomat said Trump’s suggestion was “not good.”
“The summit should send a strong signal to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, and now show strong differences between allies. We would prefer a different situation,” the diplomat told CNN’s Michelle Kosinski.
“But we’re not worried about it. We compare it to fights among families. Things can get nasty, but it’s still a family,” the diplomat added.
Trump has long complained that NATO members are not meeting their fiscal obligations to the alliance.
“Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2% (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made. Will they reimburse the U.S.?” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Trump singled out Germany for particular criticism as he continued to assail NATO allies for failing to spend 2% of their GDP on defense spending, a target NATO allies agreed to meet by 2024.
Trump erased that timeline Wednesday as he stepped up his calls for increased defense spending, saying allies should do so “immediately.”
“I think these countries have to step it up, not over a 10-year period, but they have to step it up immediately,” Trump said, pointing to Germany in particular as a “rich country” that “could increase (defense spending) immediately tomorrow and have no problem.”
Addressing reporters within hours of Trump’s comments, German Chancellor Angela Merkel touted German contributions to NATO and in defense of US interests.
“Germany also does a lot for NATO. We are the second largest donor of troops, we put most of our military abilities into the service of NATO and we are strongly committed in Afghanistan, where we also defend the interests of the United States of America. Because the deployment in Afghanistan has to do with the only example of Article 5,” Merkel said upon arriving at NATO headquarters Wednesday.
CNN’s Michelle Kosinski contributed to this report.