'That's not how Nato works': Officials reject Donald Trump's claim that Germany owes Western allies 'vast sums of money'

James Rothwell
US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington - AFP or licensors

Donald Trump's grasp of Nato was questioned on Sunday after he claimed that Germany owed the Western alliance and the United States "vast sums of money"

The president had demanded in a tweet on Saturday that "the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!"

But his demand was swiftly rejected by German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who said on Sunday that "there is no debt account at Nato."

She added: "Defence spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against IS terrorism."

Nato - which stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - is an alliance of western countries, including the UK, which have agreed to defend each other against an attack from an external threat, such as Russia. 

Ivo Daalder, the former US ambassador to Nato, also took issue with Mr Trump's claims and replied directly to the president on Twitter. 

"I'm sorry, Mr President but that is not how Nato works," he said, pointing out that Nato spending was not a "financial transaction" between countries but a joint commitment to spend two per cent of GDP on defence. 


 He went on to argue that America's large military commitment to Nato was not a "favour to Europe" but a mutually beneficial arrangement as keeping Europe "whole and free" was key to US interests.  

Mr Trump has clashed with Germany in the past as it currently spends just 1.18 per cent of GDP on defence, according to the latest  figures. 

But Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, reiterated Germany's intention to increase spending to two per cent during a press conference with Mr Trump on 

The president's stance on Nato appears to have softened slightly since the election campaign, when he rejected the military alliance as "obsolete."