Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has sharply criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's statements about NATO. “These statements are irresponsible and even play into Russia’s hands,” said Steinmeier on Monday during a visit to the Cypriot capital Nicosia. “And no one in our alliance can have an interest in that.” The statements do not contribute to the strength that NATO needs.

Steinmeier also made it clear that it was “absolutely clear” to him “that we in Europe, including us in Germany, must do our part to systematically increase defense efforts within NATO over the next few years.” This applies regardless of the election outcome in the United States in the fall.

Trump said at a campaign event in the state of South Carolina that the “president of a great country” once asked him whether the USA would still protect this country from Russia even if it did not pay for defense spending. He replied: “No, I wouldn’t protect you.” In fact, he would “even encourage Russia to do whatever the hell they want.”

It remained unclear whether such a conversation had ever taken place between Trump and a head of state, as the Republican also said: "Let's assume that happened."

Even after Trump's statements, the federal government is building on a functioning defense alliance. “In its security and defense policy, the federal government is clearly relying on the transatlantic alliance and the transatlantic community of values ​​and sees its security guaranteed in NATO,” said deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann on Monday in Berlin. The federal government “of course took note” of Trump’s statements.

“Determined to meet the two percent target”

In this context, Hoffmann also pointed out on Monday that Germany is now meeting NATO's two percent defense spending target. She did not want to speculate about possible demands from the USA to further increase this target. “We rely on a strong and capable NATO,” she said.

She added that the federal government was “committed to the two percent target and determined to continue to meet it. And we are very aware of the dangers that an imperialist Russia poses for Europe and what that means for the defense capability of Germany and NATO.”

The former American president had already said several times in the past that it was unfair that the USA had to stand up for the defense of the 30 other member states. Above all, he criticized the fact that Europeans were not spending enough money on armaments.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell emphasized that the military alliance cannot depend on the whim of the US President. “NATO cannot be an 'à la carte' military alliance,” said Borrell before the start of an informal meeting of EU development ministers in Brussels. It cannot mean “yes now, no tomorrow”. The alliance exists or it does not exist.