Europe

Germany: Merkel's challenger questions NATO 2 percent target

FILE - In this April 7, 2017 file photo Martin Schulz, chairman of Germany's Social Democratic, SPD, and chancellor candidate delivers a speech at the conference of the SPD youth organization in Duisburg, Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-left challenger Schulz is promising that Germany would be a “strong and reliable” NATO member under his leadership, but questioning anew the aim of dedicating two percent of gross domestic product to defense spending. (Guido Kirchner/dpa via AP, file)

FILE - In this April 7, 2017 file photo Martin Schulz, chairman of Germany's Social Democratic, SPD, and chancellor candidate delivers a speech at the conference of the SPD youth organization in Duisburg, Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-left challenger Schulz is promising that Germany would be a “strong and reliable” NATO member under his leadership, but questioning anew the aim of dedicating two percent of gross domestic product to defense spending. (Guido Kirchner/dpa via AP, file)  (The Associated Press)

Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-left challenger is promising that Germany would be a "strong and reliable" NATO member under his leadership, but again questioned the aim of dedicating 2 percent of gross domestic product to defense spending.

The new U.S. administration has stepped up pressure on NATO allies to reach 2 percent. Germany is one of many countries falling short, with the figure currently at 1.23 percent.

Martin Schulz, who hopes to oust Merkel in a September election, and his Social Democrats have questioned whether NATO ever agreed to a firm 2 percent target, pointing to a 2014 summit declaration that said allies "aim to move toward the 2 percent guideline within a decade."

Schulz told foreign reporters Monday that "what we need is not an arms race but disarmament initiatives."