After Merkel meeting, Trump says Germany owes "vast sums" to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Posted March 20, 2017

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (L) talks with her Norwegian counterpart Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide during a NATO Defense Ministers Meeting at its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 15, 2017. "Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS", he tweeted, "I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel".

Friday's meeting between Mr. Trump and Merkel - originally scheduled for Tuesday, but postponed because of D.C. weather - will be watched closely on both sides of the Atlantic, particularly amid concerns that the new president's "America First" rhetoric will reshape the longstanding close relationship between the United States and Germany.

In one, the leaders failed to stage a handshake for cameras in the Oval Office, and in another Merkel looked baffled by comments made by Trump during a joint press conference.

Despite their disagreement, Trump avoided the bitter rhetoric of the past and showed a more conciliatory tone during the joint press conference.

But all anyone will remember of the meeting was Trump's decision to double down on the unfounded claims that he was wiretapped by British spies at the behest of the Obama administration, and his awkward attempt to joke about it with Merkel (whose phones had been tapped by the National Security Agency during the Obama years). In fact, Trump doesn't even glance in Merkel's direction. The pragmatic Merkel is now on her third United States president and appears to be looking to find a way to forge a relationship with Trump without buying into his political values.

Trump agreed to attend the G-20 Summit in Germany later this year, Merkel said.

Toward that end, both leaders said that Germany is committed to increasing its defense spending to 2 percent of its GDP - a goal already established for NATO members by the treaty's terms.

Trump sarcastically referred to German news agency reporter Kristina Dunz as a "nice friendly reporter" when she probed him about his 'dangerous isolationist policies'.

"For me, the question is who is really providing added value to the alliance", she said.

According to a 2016 report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Germany placed ninth in the list of global military powers, having spent $39.4 billion on defense in 2015. As an economic powerhouse, a center of technology and innovation, a haven for refugees in the migration crisis-and, increasingly, as the leader of Europe-Germany is uniquely suited to help the United States meet the challenges of today's complex world.

Pressed on what course of action he would take if the answer were no, Trump said: "Well, I'm not saying if not", he said.

Sources of tension between Berlin and the new US administration also include an accusation by a senior Trump adviser that Germany profits unfairly from a weak euro.

"A president only has so much political capital to expend and so much moral authority as well, and so any time your credibility takes a hit, I think in many ways it weakens the officeholder", Dent said.