The U.S., which has been asking South Korea to pay about five times the current share of defense costs, is also increasing the pressure on its European allies, including Germany, to provide more military spending. Against the U.S.’s determined pressure, its European partners are voicing doubt as well as criticism over their alliance.
U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg at the White House on Thursday. As the White House released this plan on Saturday, it added, “An increase in military spending by NATO allies and fair share of defense costs will be discussed at the meeting.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also raised the issue of defense costs to the German government during his visit to the German capital to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. According to the State Department, the secretary met Federal Minister of Defense of Germany Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Friday and discussed current issues involving threats from Syria, Iran, Russia, and China as well as military spending.
In addition, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper went to the NATO headquarters located in Brussels, Belgium in late October and demanded an increase in military spending, saying, “There can be no free rides to our shared security.” Despite the NATO secretary general’s pledge that NATO members will pay extra 100 billion U.S. dollars by the end of the next year during an interview with Fox News earlier this year, the military alliance is faced with more pressure from the White House to drive up defense costs.
Meanwhile, there is a growing criticism against President Trump’s approach to the alliance from a commercial perspective for the U.S.’s recent decision to withdraw its troops from Syria without consulting with its allies. French President Emmanuel Macron even said the NATO is experiencing “brain death” by mentioning the incident during a media interview. The member countries of the NATO agreed to provide two percent of respective GDP as military budget in 2014, but only seven of them kept such promise. For the pledge to increase military spending by 100 billion dollars, most member countries have not put forward concrete execution plans. There is also a huge gap between the sides of the Atlantic Ocean as President Trump argues that NATO members should pay four percent of their GDPs.
Germany’s military budget this year is 1.36 percent of the GDP. Although the country agreed to an increase in military spending to two percent of the GDP, the country’s Defense Ministry is aiming to reach the figure by 2031. According to The Washington Post, there are signs of conflicts between the ruling Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party – the junior party in the government coalition with the CDU – as military budget increase is a politically sensitive issue. “But Trump is unlikely to be celebrating just yet,” reported The Washington Post. “Although the U.S. president may be happy with the German announcement, the timing will be a harder sell.”