Germany balks at Tillerson’s call for more European Nato spending
Germanay’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it was neither ‘reachable nor desirable’ to spend the agreed Nato target of 2 per cent of member states’ economic output on defence
United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reassured his nervous European counterparts over Washington’s commitment to Nato and pressed them again to spend more on defence, triggering a rebuke from Germany.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it was neither “reachable nor desirable” for Germany to spend the agreed Nato target of 2 per cent of member states’ economic output on defence. Nato allies have until 2024 to do that.
“Two per cent would mean military expenses of some €70 billion [HK$580 billion]. I don’t know any German politician who would claim that is reachable nor desirable,” Gabriel told the first meeting of Nato foreign ministers attended by Tillerson. “The US will realise it is better to talk about better spending instead of more spending.”
Gabriel noted that humanitarian, development and economic aid to stabilise countries and regions should also count.
In his first remarks to Nato ministers, Tillerson said allies needed to pay up or outline plans for meeting that target when Nato leaders meet on May 25 for the first top-level summit of the alliance to be attended by US President Donald Trump.
Trump has criticised Nato as “obsolete” and suggested Washington’s security guarantees for European allies could be conditional on them spending more on their own defence. He has also said he wants Nato to do more to fight terrorism.
“Our goal should be to agree at the May leaders meeting that by the end of the year all allies will have either met the pledge guidelines or will have developed plans that clearly articulate how ... the pledge will be fulfilled,” Tillerson said.
“Allies must demonstrate by their actions that they share US government’s commitment.”
In Berlin, German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the government was committed to increasing defence spending and would continue to do so “because we know it is necessary and makes sense to further strengthen our armed forces”.
US defence expenditure makes up about 70 per cent of the total Nato allies’ defence spending. Only four European Nato members – Estonia, Greece, Poland and Britain – meet the 2 per cent target. Nato head Jens Stoltenberg rejected Gabriel’s call to include non-military spending towards the goal, but said Germany was moving “in the right direction” with more military spending after years of cuts. He said Nato ministers discussed national plans for arriving at the target as they prepared for the May summit.
UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said other European Nato allies must “raise their game”.
Tillerson did, however, offer assurances of Washington’s commitment to Nato during his brief stop in Brussels, where he did not hold one-on-one meetings with countries, which is customary during such gatherings.