Germany Says It Won't Meet Trump's Demand on Defense for Years

(Bloomberg) -- German defense spending will fall far short of levels demanded by President Donald Trump’s administration for years to come, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s defense minister said.

Military outlays will climb to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2025, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Monday. It was the government’s first public acknowledgment that Germany won’t reach the 2 percent spending level pledged by North Atlantic Treaty Organization members by the middle of the next decade.

Trump has denounced Germany for insufficient defense spending, at one point accusing Merkel’s government of owing “billions” for security. Last year, the U.S. president told NATO leaders that the alliance’s European members owe “massive amounts of money from past years.”

By contrast, Von der Leyen said it was important that NATO members don’t get “stuck on financial figures.”

“It’s not the only criterion -- it’s also a question of who contributes what in the alliance,” the defense minister told a military conference in Berlin, saying that Germany is the second-biggest troop contributor within NATO.

1.28 Percent

Speaking earlier Monday, Merkel told the conference that Germany “needs to stand by the promises that we made.” Her government says it’s standing by a pledge by NATO members in 2014 to move “towards” the 2 percent target within a decade.

German lawmakers begin debate on Tuesday on a federal budget that proposes raising defense spending from 37 billion euros last year to 41.5 billion euros ($50 billion) in 2019, equivalent to about 1.28 percent of GDP.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, says he envisages the level staying roughly constant “in the coming years.” Von der Leyen, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, has insisted that the military needs more funding.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.