President Donald Trump last month sent letters to NATO allies threatening to reduce the number of American troops stationed abroad if they didn’t increase their countries’ defense spending, according to excerpts of the letters shared with The New York Times.
In the letters, Trump told European leaders, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that frustration is growing in Congress and the executive branch over how much the U.S. spends in the defense of European countries.
“As we discussed during your visit in April, there is growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised,” Trump wrote to Merkel. “The United States continues to devote more resources to the defense of Europe when the Continent’s economy, including Germany’s, are doing well and security challenges abound. This is no longer sustainable for us.”
Trump is particularly vexed with Merkel, according to the Times. His administration is reportedly looking at what a sweeping withdraw of U.S. troops from Germany could look like and the President told Merkel in his letter that she should be more cognizant of her influence over other members of NATO.
“Continued German underspending on defense undermines the security of the alliance and provides validation for other allies that also do not plan to meet their military spending commitments, because others see you as a role model,” he wrote.
The letters to NATO allies have been met with alarm because it’s the first time Trump has threatened a consequence for what he views as inadequate defense spending, according to the Times. However, a White House official told the Times that Trump is committed to sticking with NATO, but wants to allies to “share our common defense burden, and to do more in areas that most affect them.”