Saturday 24 February 2018

Merkel and Juncker defend Nato spend after Trump threats

James Mattis in Munich
James Mattis in Munich

Ben Farmer in Munich

European leaders have hit back at Donald Trump's ultimatum that they increase defence spending or risk America scaling back its commitment to transatlantic protection.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said her country would not accelerate plans to increase its military budget by 2024, despite America's demand this week that countries increase spending by the end of the year.

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, also said countries must not cave in to American demands.

James Mattis, the US defence secretary, warned Nato this week that a new "political reality" after the election of Mr Trump meant it was no longer possible for allies to shirk their share of the defence burden.

Unless nations began spending more, he said Washington could "moderate" its commitment to them.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Mr Mattis, a retired US marine general, said yesterday that Europe now faced a "threat on multiple fronts as the arc of instability builds on Nato's periphery and beyond".

But Mr Juncker said he was "very much against" Europe allowing itself to be forced into an increase in defence spending. He added: "I don't like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military."

Germany would lose its budget surplus if it increased defence spending to 2pc of GDP from 1.22pc, he said.

Mr Juncker went on: "If you look at what Europe is doing in defence, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different. Modern politics cannot just be about raising defence spending."

Nato guidelines call for all members of the collective defence alliance to spend 2pc of GDP on military budgets. But in reality only five do - America, Britain, Greece, Estonia and Poland - while some, including Italy and Spain, spend half that.

Mrs Merkel said Germany would stick to its long-term commitment to raise defence spending by the middle of the next decade. "Germany is conscious of its responsibility" to spend more on arms, she said, but added that other issues are also important for global security.

Mrs Merkel said that Germany had increased defence spending by 8pc in this year's budget over last year.

She continued: "We must do more here, no question, but the matters of development aid and crisis prevention are also important."

Meanwhile, Robert Harward has turned down an offer to be Mr Trump's new US national security adviser in the latest blow to the administration.

The retired vice-admiral said that the Trump administration was "very accommodating to my needs, both professionally and personally".

He said: "It's purely a personal issue. I'm in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time."

But asked whether he had requested to bring in his own staff at the National Security Council, Mr Harward said: "I think that's for the president to address." (© Daily Telegraph London)

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