A couple of weeks ago we wrote several notes about German Chancellor Angela Merkel's painfully awkward visit to the White House. After meeting in private, the pair sat down in the oval office for a brief press conference where you could cut the tension with a knife. At one point someone from the media asked for a handshake but the request was promptly ignored.
"Can we get a handshake?"— Steve Kopack (@SteveKopack) March 17, 2017
*Merkel looks at Trump*
*Press is ushered out without any handshake* pic.twitter.com/dKxu5C5X9Y
Now, a couple of weeks later, we learn what may have prompted some of the tension in the room between Merkel and Trump that day. According to a new report from The Times of London today, Trump apparently took advantage of Merkel's visit to Washington D.C. to pass her a $375 billion invoice for 'overdue' NATO defense expenses. Per The Hill, Merkel largely ignored the invoice though it certainly seems to have accomplished it's goal of ruffling some feathers.
“The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” a German minister told the newspaper.
Trump during his presidential campaign railed against the NATO alliance and has called for member countries to increase defense spending to support the organization.
Merkel “ignored the provocation,” the Times said.
As reported, the invoice was based on a 2014 pledge from NATO countries to spend 2% of their GDP on national defense. As such, Trump allegedly instructed aides to calculate how much German spending fell below that 2% target for the past 12 years, added interest and created an invoice which he hand delivered.
Meanwhile, with the benefit of this new information, Trump's tweets from March 18th, after his meetings with Merkel, take on all new meaning.
Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2017
...vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2017
And while Merkel has largely ignored the invoice, other German ministers have decided upon more aggressive responses. Per the Independent:
In response to the claims, German defence minister Ursula Von der Leyen rejected the notion the European nation owed the US or Nato.
She issued a statement saying: “There is no debt account at Nato
“Defence spending also goes into UN peacekeeping missions, into our European missions and into our contribution to the fight against [Isis] terrorism.”
Her comments were backed by Ivo Daalder, permanent representative to Nato from 2009 to 2013 under the Obama administration, who queried the President’s understanding of the organisation.
He tweeted: “Sorry Mr President, that’s not how Nato works. The US decides for itself how much it contributes to defending Nato.
“This is not a financial transaction, where Nato countries pay the US to defend them. It is part of our treaty commitment.”
Never a dull moment in the Trump White House.