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17 Aug, 2017 16:36

Merkel must not ‘kneel’ to Trump over armament demands – German FM

Merkel must not ‘kneel’ to Trump over armament demands – German FM

Berlin must not spend billions on militarization to appease Donald Trump, the German foreign minister said, adding that Chancellor Angela Merkel should not “kneel” to the US president.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel attacked Chancellor Merkel in a blunt op-ed for the Rheinische Post newspaper. Gabriel said that a Cold War with Russia has returned and that the world is plagued by hotspots and violence including civil wars, but argued that pumping billions into massive armament programs was no solution for Europe.

“As opposed to the times of the East-West confrontation, those conflicts and wars are far more difficult to foresee and manage,” Gabriel wrote. “The question is: how do we respond? The answer by US President Donald Trump is to arm.” 

The minister then struck a combative tone, saying Merkel and her ruling party “want to follow Trump’s dictate and double Germany’s military spending.” Gabriel added that “we have to spend more than €70 billion on arms per year upon Trump’s and Merkel’s will.”

He said, however, that the reality was different. “Every German soldier who is deployed overseas tells us that there’s no security and stability that can be reached through weapons or military force.” 

Europe’s greatest goal is “to invest in peace not war,” Gabriel said, adding that “submission to Trump's armament policy is wrong and unnecessary.” In fact, Germany "must remain the power of peace rather than become an arms machine,” the foreign minister maintained. He then took on NATO’s European buildup, saying that “the logic of deterrence” against perceived threat from Russia risks further escalation. Europe needs “a joint effort in arms control... benefiting all Europeans but also the Russians.”

Earlier this year, Trump vowed a mammoth $1 trillion program to modernize the American nuclear arsenal, arguing the US had "fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” Consequently, Washington threatened to pull out from the landmark Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), accusing Russia of disrespecting it. 

Russia maintains that it's the US who violates the INF by pushing its drone program, testing anti-ballistic missile technology, and deploying its Aegis Ashore missile defense shield in Eastern Europe in the vicinity of Russian borders. 

Though habitually slamming “Russian aggressions,” Gabriel said there must always be room for dialogue and reconciliation. “We must free ourselves from the devilish logic saying that security is to be reached through armament,” Gabriel stressed. 

“That’s the kind of thinking of people like President Trump, who tries to obtrude on NATO partners. I fear that Mrs Merkel will proceed with it after the [2017 general] election – to pump millions into arms programs to appease Trump,” he cautioned, saying that “kneeling” before Washington is not an option with his Social Democrats party (SPD), which is also a part of the ruling coalition in Germany.

Gabriel hosted the so-called ‘Deep Cuts’ panel discussion on Wednesday that included experts from the United States, Russia and Germany. During the event, experts “told us we are now repeating the worst mistakes of the Cold War and are in the middle of a Cold War 2.0,” he said, according to Reuters. 

They called on us in Europe to raise our voices and express our interests vis-à-vis Moscow and Washington, but also within NATO,” Gabriel said.  

Earlier in August, leaders of the SPD sent “a clear no” to Trump’s call to boost the military budgets of NATO states to 2 percent of GDP.

They also insisted that the German chancellor and her party made themselves “small vis-à-vis Donald Trump when they answer his provocations around the 2 percent target by saying, 'Okay, fine, we'll put in more money,' as if we didn't have any better ideas what to do.”

Strong opposition to Trump’s plans also came from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker earlier this year. “I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this,” he said.

Only five out of 28 NATO nations now meet the 2 percent of GDP spending mark — the US, the UK, Estonia, Greece and Poland – with Washington spending about 2.5 times more than the rest of the allies combined.

At the 2014 Wales summit, some countries argued that it is unrealistic to reach the two-percent target by 2024, as expenditure is largely based on each state’s economic might.