Political News

Trump says US 'must be paid more' to defend Germany

Posted 12:14 p.m. Saturday
Updated 1:37 p.m. Saturday

President Donald Trump, with his son Barron Trump, wave they disembark from Air Force One upon arrival at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., , Friday, March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

— President Donald Trump said Saturday that Germany owes "vast sums of money" to NATO and the U.S. "must be paid more" for providing defense, reiterating his stance that European allies need to meet their end of the bargain if they are to continue benefiting from the military alliance.

Trump's tweet from his Florida resort, where he is spending the weekend, came the day after his first meeting with Germany's leader.

"Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel," the president wrote. "Nevertheless, Germany owes ... vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!"

Trump and Merkel tried to sidestep their differences in their meeting at the White House on Friday, but it was punctuated by some awkward moments.

During a photo op in the Oval Office, the two did not shake hands before reporters. Later, during a joint news conference, Trump pushed back against the notion in Europe that his "America First" agenda means he's an isolationist, calling such a suggestion "another example of, as you say, fake news." And he referred to the United States as "a very powerful company," before quickly correcting that to "country."

When a German reporter asked Trump if he regrets any of his commentary on Twitter, Trump said, "Very seldom."

The new president reaffirmed the United States' "strong support" for NATO, but reiterated his stance that NATO allies need to "pay their fair share" for the cost of defense. Trump said at the press conference that many countries owe "vast sums of money" — but he declined to identify Germany, at the time, as one of those nations.

Prior to his inauguration, Trump declared NATO "obsolete" but has since modified his stance, telling European leaders the alliance remains of strategic importance. Only the U.S. and four other members currently reach the benchmark of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense. Germany currently spends 1.23 percent of its GDP on defense, but it is being increased.

When the topic moved to trade, Trump said the U.S. would do "fantastically well" in its trade relations with Germany. The president has been deeply critical of foreign trade and national security agreements but suggested he was only trying to revise trade deals to better serve U.S. interests, rather than pull back from the world entirely.

Trump said trade agreements have led to greater trade deficits. The U.S. trade deficit with Germany was $64.9 billion last year, the lowest since 2009, according to the Commerce Department.

Merkel maintained her composure when Trump repeated his contention that former President Barack Obama may have tapped his phones in Trump Tower. He sought to turn the explosive charge into a light joke when asked about concerns raised by the British government that the White House is now citing a debunked claim that U.K. spies snooped on Trump.

"At least we have something in common, perhaps," Trump said casually, referring to 2013 reports that the U.S. was monitoring Merkel's cellphone conversations. As for the most recent report, Trump said he shouldn't be blamed for quoting a Fox News analyst who had accused British intelligence of helping Obama spy on him.

On economic issues, Merkel attempted to project a conciliatory approach. She said the "success of Germans has always been one where the German success is one side of the coin and the other side of the coin has been European unity and European integration. That's something of which I'm deeply convinced."

Those comments appeared aimed at making a case to Trump on the benefits of the European Union. Trump backed Britain's departure from the EU and has expressed skepticism of multilateral trade agreements.

The two leaders tried to express their common bonds but showed minimal rapport in their first encounter, a departure from Merkel's warm relations with Obama during his eight years as president. 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."

Merkel said delicately that while she represents German interests, Trump "stands up for, as is right, American interests. That is our task respectively." She said they were "trying to address also those areas where we disagree but tried to bring people together."

"We need to be fair with each other," Merkel said, saying both countries were expecting "that something good comes out of it for their own people."

The meetings at the White House included discussions on fighting the Islamic State group, the conflict in Afghanistan and resolving Ukraine's conflict, all matters that require close cooperation between the U.S. and Germany.

The talks aimed to represent a restart of a relationship complicated by Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail. As a candidate, Trump frequently accused the chancellor of "ruining" Germany for allowing an influx of refugees and other migrants from Syria and accused his campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, of wanting to be "America's Angela Merkel."

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Associated Press writer Vivian Salama contributed to this report from Palm Beach, Florida.

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On Twitter follow Ken Thomas at https://twitter.com/KThomasDC and https://twitter.com/colvinj

8 Comments

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  • Marianne Tioran Mar 19, 11:52 a.m.
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    germany and europe in general mooch off the USA....I agree with making them pay their fair share

  • George Brown Mar 19, 9:55 a.m.
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    Careless Whispers's a George Michael song.

  • William Sherman Mar 19, 8:57 a.m.
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    Since we're talking money here--I forgot to mention the money Germany owes the US as reparations for World War I, and World War II..

  • William Sherman Mar 19, 8:53 a.m.
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    View quoted thread


    Oh yes---Hawaii, California,
    Marthas Vineyard, Cape Cod=-=sound familiar???? Do we have to name the individual in question???

  • Milo Bloom Mar 19, 8:13 a.m.
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    Typical GOP deflection. Wasn't it Trump who said "I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done”? Yet he's at the "SOUTHERN White House" every other week? It's not even the "WINTER White House" any more... LOL so lame!

  • Michael Bawden Mar 19, 7:22 a.m.
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    Albert, please google a little bit. Germany depends heavily on US bases to bolster their economy. When there is talk of shutting down bases in Germany the towns affected towns get all antsy. The fact is, the US keeps other countries from seriously defending themselves with their own people. Either defend your own country, or PAY the US. Right now, the US military is a great bargin. How many countries ask Russia to defend their borders from the US?

  • Albert Furter Mar 19, 12:09 a.m.
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    Yes, let's remind those Germans to pony up more for our defense. Didn't we declare Germany to be the battleground in a confrontation with the Soviet Union? I am not sure if that has changed, besides the name of the eastern territory. Of course, the Germans might also use that opportunity to remind us to finally pony up the money the US has promised to pay for international development.

  • William Sherman Mar 18, 10:23 p.m.
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    William my friend--apparently you were not paying attention to the past 8 years of Obama, and more specilfically the past 16 months with Hillary Clintons campaign..I'm 71, and I have never seen anyone outside of jail who lies at those two did..