BERLIN: An envoy of US President Donald Trump suggested on Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s unwillingness to boost defence spending might give the United States no choice but to move American troops stationed in Germany to Poland.
The comments by Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, signal Trump’s impatience with Merkel’s failure to raise defence spending to two percent of economic output as mandated by the Nato military alliance.
“It is offensive to assume that the US taxpayers continue to pay for more than 50,000 Americans in Germany but the Germans get to spend their (budget) surplus on domestic programmes,” Grenell told the dpa news agency.
Germany’s fiscal plans foresee the defence budget of Nato’s second-largest member rising to 1.37 percent of output next year before falling to 1.24 percent in 2023.
Eastern European countries like Poland and Latvia, fearful of Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have raised their military spending to the two percent target, drawing praise from Trump who wants Germany to do the same.
US complaints about Germany’s defence spending pre-date Trump but relations with the United States have deteriorated since he became president.
The two allies do not see eye-to-eye on a range of issues, including Iran, trade tariffs and the NordStream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
Trump said in June he would deploy 1,000 US troops from Germany to Poland, which sees the measure as deterrence against possible aggression from Russia.
Georgette Mosbacher, US ambassador to Poland, has made a similar criticism of Germany’s reluctance to commit more financial resources to Nato.
“Poland meets its 2 percent of GDP spending obligation towards Nato. Germany does not. We would welcome American troops in Germany to come to Poland,” she wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
The United States has more than 33,000 soldiers in Germany and an additional 17,000 US civilian employees to support them. It is believed the United States also has nuclear warheads in Germany.
“President Trump is right and Georgette Mosbacher is right,” Grenell told dpa. “Multiple presidents have asked Europe’s largest economy to pay for its own defence.
Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2019