When German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her first visit to meet with President Donald Trump shortly after his inauguration, she was greeted with an unexpected accusation, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
“You owe me one trillion dollars,” Trump reportedly told her, according to an official briefed on the session who spoke with the Journal. Trump was reportedly referencing what he estimated as the gap between the amount of money Germany was supposed to spend on its own defense under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) over the past 14 years, and what it’s actually paid for.
While Trump isn’t the first U.S. President to criticize NATO, or draw criticism from the global treaty group, he’s the the first to spark fears that the group will dismantle over his critical rhetoric.
News of the early 2017 comments to Merkel show Trump has been unwilling to budge on his stance that U.S. allies need to pay more toward their own defense, even since his initial meetings with world leaders as president.
Trump is set to travel to Brussels, Belgium this week to attend a summit with NATO leaders, a meeting that’s expected to be tumultuous. This will be the first time he’s interacted with U.S. allies in person since he butt heads with them on trade and pulled out of a joint statement last month at a meeting in Quebec.