Defense chief after Trump tweet: NATO doesn’t track ‘past money owed’

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Defense Secretary James Mattis said Wednesday that NATO does not calculate “past money owed” and Germany is on track to meet its alliance commitments, despite President Trump claiming that the country owed money.

“I cannot give you an accounting for past money owed, because that’s not the way we do that in NATO,” Mattis told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee. “We do it through capabilities. That’s the commitment each nation makes.”

Mattis was responding to a question from Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) referencing tweets Trump sent over the weekend, in which he said that Germany owed money to NATO. The comments came a day after Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

{mosads}“Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 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 wrote in a series of tweets.

Germany is not one of the nations currently meeting NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, but Mattis insisted Wednesday that Germany has shown its commitment to meeting the spending goal.

“We are seeing Germany is committed to going to the 2 percent, reinforced by their minister of defense when I spoke with her and also by the chancellor, and I think they’re on the right track to lead the development of 2 percent budgets across the alliance,” Mattis said.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Greece, Estonia and Poland are the only alliance members currently meeting the 2 percent goal.

But total defense spending across the alliance increased 3.8 percent in 2016 for a total of about $10 billion.

Mattis said he anticipates four more countries meeting the 2 percent goal within the next 12 months, though he did not specific which countries.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said recently that Romania is on track to meet the 2 percent target this year, while Lithuania and Latvia are expected to follow in 2018.

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