Donald Trump

Spain dismisses Trump’s rants on Europe’s military spending, says US must pay more into Nato

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 June, 2017, 12:50am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 June, 2017, 12:50am

A senior Spanish defence official dismissed Donald Trump’s complaints about European military spending as unjustified, saying that it’s the US who should be paying more into Nato.

Deputy Defence Minister Agustin Conde said the only firm financial commitment that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members have to the alliance is their contribution to its annual budget, which should be based on the economic output of each country. By that measure, he said, the US is paying far less than it should.

“The US should be paying about 50 per cent of the NATO budget, they pay 24 per cent,” Conde, 51, said in an interview in Madrid. “It’s not right to say that European countries owe money.”

Trans-Atlantic relations have been roiled in the past week after long-standing US frustrations about Europe’s lack of defence spending erupted at a summit in Brussels where Trump harangued his Nato allies. After three days of talks with Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested the US had become an unpredictable ally and the European Union needed to redouble efforts to pull together.

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While most Nato allies’ contributions to its 2.2 billion-euro (US$2.5 billion) annual budget are based on their economic output, the US’s payments are capped with the agreement of all members. Nato’s own budget is just a fraction of the alliance’s overall outlay on defence, most of which comes from national governments.

The US accounts for some 70 per cent of Nato’s total military outlay while 23 of the 28 members fall short of the alliance’s target of spending 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence. A Nato spokesman declined to comment on Conde’s remarks.

“Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” Trump told Nato leaders in Brussels on May 25.

Conde acknowledged that Spain is far from reaching the 2 per cent target but insisted there is also a lot of time before the 10-year deadline agreed in Cardiff in 2014. He said that US president’s willingness to discard normal diplomatic language is ruffling feathers in Europe.

“Trump’s mode of expression is unusual and surprising, and not in an agreeable way,” he said in his office, dominated by a portrait of King Felipe. “Spain, which pays 5.5 per cent of the Nato budget, should be paying 1.2 per cent. What is clear is that Spain pays its 5.5 per cent religiously and does not owe a single penny.”

Conde said he hopes to see Europe’s relationship with the US recover, while pinning the blame for the recent problems squarely on Trump.

“It wasn’t Merkel or May who said that Nato was past its sell-by date, that was Trump,” he said.