Germany 'owes vast sums' to NATO, US for defense

Posted March 20, 2017

The German Chancellor has promised to do her best to spend what Donald Trump calls a "fair share" on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation during her first official meeting with the new US President, despite such commitments somewhat contradicting some senior German officials.

In an exchange caught on video, photographers gathered around Trump and Merkel in the Oval Office and suggested that the two leaders shake hands for the camera. Earlier, she had introduced Mr Trump to bosses from firms like Siemens and BMW, who talked up their American factories and investments.

Merkel, for her part, focused on business from the outset as a centerpiece of her visit. He praised Berlin's leadership role in Afghanistan and in the Ukraine conflict. Over the past decade, USA bases in Germany have mostly benefited America.

Funding for the European military alliance has been a sore spot for Trump, who frequently complained on the campaign trail that Germany and other members have not paid their promised contributions. Another user created a thought bubble over Merkel's head with the caption: "Nobody told me it was bring your daughter to work day".

The obvious exception was Trump's joking comparison of Merkel's surveillance experience, which was real, with his, for which no evidence is known to exist.

The US President also took the opportunity to reject an unfounded report from a Fox News commentator asserting that British intelligence agents were involved in the alleged spying, even though White House officials had assured livid British leaders that they would no longer promote the claim. Her core message to Mr Trump was that real political leadership involves seeking a co-operative solution that leaves everyone ahead, and that global relations do not have to be zero-sum.

But below the surface, things were not as smooth as it seemed.

The leaders are likely to discuss how to reconcile their differing views on migration policy. But that is not entirely accurate since Trump - in a noteworthy and unusual move for a United States president - did not even mention the European Union once in his remarks.

The most awkward moments involved Mr Trump's repeated claims that he was spied on as a candidate by the Obama administration.

"So that's not going to prevent us from concluding agreements and indeed this would then qualify as a bilateral agreement between the European Union and the United States if we had it", she added.

Trump's general rhetoric, for Anderson, was reminiscent "of a language more common of United States administrations prior to 1989 - a language of bilateralism and ledger sheets, on which a balance of interest had to be maintained".

In brushing off the diplomatic row with perhaps America's closest ally, Trump also revived another: the Obama administration's monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's calls.

She said that while she represents German interests, Mr Trump "stands up for, as is right, American interests". The Obama administration's spying infuriated Germany at the time and risked damaging the US relationship with one of its most important European partners.

That impression was shared by presidential rhetoric scholar Farnsworth. At the start of the news conference, Merkel sought to break the ice, saying that it was "much better to talk to one another than about one another".

Yet the German publication Deutsche Welle points out that "the bar of what to expect from their first meeting [is] rather low, especially given the prior verbal tiffs between them and their different domestic audiences". Quite the opposite, in fact: Hopes remain that the meeting, if nothing else, might help reset the relationship between the two leaders. Merkel's offer to do so was met with an awkward silence that served as a reminder of the deep gulf between their perspectives.