German Lawmaker, Stung by Demands Over NATO Spending, Calls for Expulsion of U.S. Ambassador

By Dimitri Simes | March 21, 2019 | 2:25pm EDT
(Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

( -- A top German opposition parliamentarian accused U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell of  “interfering” in German affairs and advocated for his expulsion from the country after the American diplomat charged that Berlin’s new budget failed to meet NATO military spending requirements.

Deutsche Welle reported that Wolfgang Kubicki, a deputy speaker in the Bundestag and vice chairman of the liberal Free Democrats Party, urged Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to punish Grenell for “interfering” in German politics by declaring him a persona non grata.

"Any U.S. diplomat who acts like a high commissioner of an occupying power must learn that our tolerance also knows its limits,” he declared.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Carsten Schneider, a parliamentarian belonging to the Social Democratic Party, echoed Kubicki’s sentiments, calling Grenell "a complete diplomatic failure” and accusing him of damaging “trans-Atlantic relations with his repeated clumsy provocations."

The proximate cause for the German lawmakers’ anger with Grenell is the dispute between Washington and Berlin over NATO spending obligations. According to a budget released on Monday, Germany intends to raise its military spending from 1.3 percent of GDP in 2019 to 1.37 percent in 2020.

However, this boost would be temporary, with spending levels to fall to 1.25 percent in 2023. Such a figure would put Germany’s defense expenditures well below the 2 percent threshold that NATO members agreed to reach by 2024 and even the 1.5 percent mark that Berlin promised last month.

Last year, the United States spent close to $700 billion on military expenditures, compared to $50 billion by Germany and $280 billion by all of NATO’s European members collectively.

Grenell publicly criticized the German government’s planned budget, telling the Associated Press that “reducing its already unacceptable commitments to military readiness is a worrisome signal to Germany’s 28 NATO allies.” It was this statement that drew the ire of German politicians, Deutsche Welle reported.

(Till Rimmele/Getty Images)

Berlin’s military spending has long been a source of frustration for the Trump Administration. Before last July’s NATO summit, National Security Advisor John Bolton singled out Germany for criticism on CBS’s Face the Nation.

“The president wants a strong NATO. If you think Russia is a threat, ask yourself this question: Why is Germany spending less than 1.2 percent of its GNP,” Bolton stated.

“So, when people talk about undermining the NATO alliance, you should look at those who are carrying out steps that make NATO less effective militarily,” he said.

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