German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel suggested Friday that his country shouldn’t have to meet its required funding level for NATO because it is already spending billions to “stabilize countries and regions.”
Gabriel’s remarks came in response to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s request to NATO foreign minsters that member nations boost their defense spending. Germany is one of 23 NATO members that don’t meet the mandatory financial obligation to the mutual defense alliance, which is currently set at 2 percent of GDP.
NATO’s latest annual report showed Germany spent 1.2 percent of GDP on defense.
Gabriel said the U.S. should focus on “better spending instead of more spending,” adding that non-defense expenditures such as economic and humanitarian aid should also count toward the spending minimum, Reuters reported.
“Two percent would mean military expenses of some 70 billion euros. I don’t know any German politician who would claim that is reachable nor desirable,” Gabriel told the gathering of foreign ministers in Brussels. (RELATED: Mattis Warns NATO: Pay Up)
Those remarks raised questions about Germany’s commitment to NATO funding, much as the U.S. was criticized for appearing to reassess its support of the alliance when President Donald Trump called it “obsolete” in January.
The Trump administration has moved to quell fears that it is distancing itself from NATO, backing the accession of Montenegro as a full member and reassuring allies that it remains committed to their security in the face of Russian provocations. Tillerson had originally planned to skip the foreign minister’s meeting, but reversed course after protests from Democratic lawmakers and foreign policy veterans. Trump himself plans to attend the annual NATO summit in May.
Tillerson urged members on Friday to take action on bringing their spending levels into compliance with the 2 percent of GDP rule.
“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. (RELATED: Tillerson Gives NATO Deatbeats Two Months To Start Contributing)
The U.S. has long complained that many NATO members are not pulling their weight when it comes to financial support of the alliance and are content to coast on American contributions. Only five member nations–Estonia, Greece, Poland, Britain and the U.S.–meet the required spending target.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg dismissed Gabriel’s rationale for including non-defense funding, but said Germany is moving in the right direction by boosting its defense spending after years of cuts, Reuters reported.
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