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German Election Hopeful Denies NATO Countries Are Obligated To Meet Spending Target

REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent

Social Democrat Martin Schulz will ignore U.S. demands for Germany to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense if he’s named chancellor in Germany’s general election in September.

President Donald Trump recently claimed Germany owes NATO “vast sums of money” for not contributing enough. Schulz — who has emerged as a serious contender for Chancellor Angela Merkel — denies a spending criteria was ever agreed upon, and said he will not put focus on reaching it. (RELATED: Trump Allegedly Handed Merkel A $370 Billion Bill For Defense)

“I’m not of the opinion that NATO has agreed to achieve this 2 percent goal in defense spending,” Schulz said at a Q&A with reporters Monday. “Twenty billion euros ($21 billion) or more in additional defense expenditures would certainly not be a goal my government would pursue.”

Schulz instead looks at the 2 percent target as a number countries should try to approach without being obligated to actually meet.

“If I interpret it correctly, all that was agreed was that we’d try to approach it,” Schulz said. “It doesn’t seem to me to be the highest priority to spend 20 billion euros more just to have a force armed to the teeth in the middle of Europe.”

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel recently suggested his country shouldn’t have to increase defense contributions since it spends billions to “stabilize countries and regions.” (RELATED: Germany: Spending On Refugees Should Count Toward Our NATO Bill)

“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 said at a gathering of foreign ministers March 31 in Brussels.

Germany has spent $209.7 billion below the 2 percent target over the past eight years, according to NATO figures. The U.S. has spent well above 3 percent of its total GDP throughout the same period.

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