World

Merkel Gives In To US Pressure On NATO Spending

REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday her country needs to meet its NATO obligation to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.

The Trump administration is actively pushing NATO allies to increase their spending. Germany currently spends about 1.2 percent of GDP on defense, which Merkel vows to change if she is elected for a fourth term in office this September.

“Obligations have to be fulfilled,” Merkel said at a campaign rally Saturday. “And, others in the world will demand that of us. And, I think they’re right that Germany must uphold its obligations.”

Germany — which turned pacifist after starting and losing two world wars in the 20th century — recently started a number of new defense initiatives with France, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania and the Czech Republic.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen further announced plans Tuesday to expand the German military from 178,000 troops to 198,000 by 2024.

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice chancellor and new foreign minister, questions whether or not Germany is obligated to rapidly increase its defense spending. Gabriel argues Germany’s spending on integrating a million newly-arrived refugees should be taken into account.

“One has to ask whether it would really calm Germany’s neighbors if we turned into a big military power in Europe and … spent over 60 billion euros ($63 billion) a year (on defense),” Gabriel said Wednesday, according to Deutsche Welle. “I have my doubts.”

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