Fact-checking Trump's tweets: Does Germany owe NATO 'vast sums of money'?

President Trump took to twitter this morning from Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, slamming media's characterization of his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and claiming Germany "owes vast sums of money to NATO."

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

But according to a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, the president's statements are misleading.

"There is no ledger sheet that shows Germany in the red," Doug Lute, who served as ambassador under former President Obama from 2013 to 2017, told ABC News. "That's not how it works in NATO."

The alliances's roughly $2 billion operating budget is paid by fixed apportions across the 28 allied members. (The United States, for example, contributes the most: about 22.14 percent of that $2 billion annually. Germany comes in second, supplying 14.65 percent.)

NATO also asks its members to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on national defense.

Since the early 2000s, the U.S. has routinely budgeted between 3 percent and 5 percent of GDP for defense.

But like many other NATO countries -- including Canada, Spain, and Italy -- Germany hasn't been spending 2 percent of its GDP on defense.

However, as Merkel affirmed Friday, the nation has promised to meet the 2 percent threshold for the next seven years at least. "We committed to this 2 percent goal until 2024," she told reporters during a joint press conference at the White House.

Technically, Germany doesn't owe NATO money. Rather, the nation owes it to the alliance to spend more on its own national defense.

"Like all Allies, Germany does owe its own people and the NATO alliance sufficient defense spending to meet current security challenges," Lute said. "In NATO that means 2 percent of GDP."



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