Angela Merkel fails to meet NATO spending target as Germany's defence minister admits budget is unlikely to be reached in future
Germany has reportedly failed to meet the NATO defence spending target, with its defence minister hinting that it would likely be asking for the target to be lowered at the next summit.
Angela Merkel had previously pledged to meet the spending goal of two per cent of GDP after being singled out by President Donald Trump, who insisted that Germany and other NATO members owed "billions" for falling short on targets.
However, it was left to defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, to admit that Germany would not make the 2024 deadline that it - and the 27 other members in NATO - agreed to at the NATO summit in Wales in 2014.
She reportedly said: “We want to remain a reliable partner within our alliances. We reached a low in terms of our defence expenditure in 2015 with 1.1 per cent of GDP. Next year, in 2019, we will probably reach 1.3 per cent. And we will notify the Nato summit in Brussels that we want to reach defence expenditure of 1.5 per cent of GDP in 2025.”
The 1.3 per cent would mark a small increase from the current level of 1.2 per cent of GDP, but this figure still falls short of the two per cent target that is set.
However, despite suggestions from von der Leyen that the budget would be reduced, Merkel stated on Monday that it was important for Germany to stand by its commitments to NATO, including the two per cent target on military spending.
The Chancellor told senior officers at her first appearance at a biennial meeting of military top brass since 2012 that the target was "not some fetish", but was instead reflective of changing security needs.
“The two per cent is not a fetish that has nothing to do with the Bundeswehr," she said. "But it is necessary to allow us to fulfil the requirements of our international deployments, plus the need for homeland and alliance defence."
According to reports, there is tension within Merkel’s "grand coalition" between her conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats over how to boost military spending towards the NATO target.
Social Democrat, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz reportedly told journalists last week that, based on tax estimates, there was a limited scope for additional fiscal spending up to 2022. He allegedly added that available money would be used to boost investment in digitization and lower income taxes.
If Germany continues to fail to meet NATO spending targets, Merkel is likely to receive a dressing down from Trump, who has publicly demanded that NATO countries step up.
After a meeting with Merkel, he said last month: "We talked about the security of Europe and the responsibility of European nations to properly contribute to their own defence. All member states must honour their commitment to two per cent, and hopefully much more, of GDP, on defence. It is essential our allies increase so everyone is paying their fair share. A lot of countries have stepped up. They have to keep going."