NATO Alliance Breaking Up Because Germany 'Not Paying Their Fair Share,' Trump National Security Adviser Says

U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said Germany and other NATO countries "not paying their fair share" in defense has hurt the alliance more than Turkey's recent incursion into Syria.

O'Brien, who replaced John Bolton in September as President Donald Trump's national security adviser, responded to infighting among NATO allies including France and Germany, saying the U.S. is still committed to the 29-member, 70-year-old North Atlantic Treaty Organization. O'Brien's "fair share" criticism of Germany comes amid widening cracks and public sniping about imbalance between NATO countries.

O'Brien and other NATO leaders say they hope to rectify such issues during next week's Heads of State and Government summit in London.

On Sunday, O'Brien echoed Trump's frequent complaint that the U.S. pays about twice as much as other NATO member nations who established a 2 percent defense spending target in 2014 -- but few have managed to hit that mark. And while O'Brien did chastise Turkey, a NATO member, for recently purchasing Russian defense weapons, he made it clear that it was the unfair defense spending rift that was most damning to the alliance's future.

"NATO is an important alliance to us, but I think the cracks that have formed in the alliance are because we have members of the alliance that aren't paying their fair share. That aren't spending money on defense," O'Brien told Face the Nation.

Trump is set to host NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Washington this week to "discuss the NATO allies' progress on increasing defense spending and ensuring more equitable burden-sharing." Trump's often conflicting public opinions of NATO hit a crisis point earlier this year after it was reported that he suggested withdrawing the U.S. from NATO altogether. The move was seen by critics as one to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In July 2018, Trump said the U.S will "not be taken advantage of" by NATO allies and said Europe gets a lot more from the alliance than the U.S.

Trump's tenuous stance toward NATO prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to tell The Economist this week that NATO is suffering a "brain death" because of a lack of American support and resolve to stay together. Macron placed doubt on the U.S.-led alliance's security agreement that an attack on one nation would be viewed as an attack on all member countries. Macron's negative outlook on NATO's future prompted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to warn France or any other dissenting allies of undermining NATO.

"It would be a mistake if we undermined NATO. Without the United States, neither Germany nor Europe will be able to effectively protect themselves," Maas wrote in a column published online by Der Spiegel magazine.

O'Brien did condemn Turkey's attacks against Syrian Kurds last month and said "there no place in NATO" for Russian military purchases after Turkey bought an S-400 anti-aircraft missile defense system from the Kremlin. But he continued complaining specifically about the defense spending gap.

"The United States taxpayer and the taxpayer of eight of the NATO countries that are spending their 2 percent on national defense, we spend over 4 percent, they're doing the right things," O'Brien continued. "But there are a bunch of countries including Germany and others that aren't paying their fair share. It's not right for the American taxpayer to have to defend these countries that don't want to defend themselves."

O'Brien said $100 billion has been spent on new NATO defense spending since Trump took office in January 2017. And he again rebuked Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan's question of whether or not Turkey was the country chipping away at the alliance.

"Turkey is a member of NATO. Turkey plays a very import geo-political role for our friends in Europe, for ourselves...Losing Turkey as an ally is something that is not good for Europe or for the United States.

In her weekly video podcast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated that NATO is a central foundation of the country's defenses and urged other European countries to step up responsibilities in upholding the security alliance. She said Germany is helping to create new aircraft, battle tanks and weapon systems.

robert o'brien national security adviser
Trump's National Security Adviser said Germany, other NATO members "not paying their fair share" of defense spending is breaking up alliance. Screenshot: CBS "Face the Nation"