US bristles at Germany's defense budget plans after it falls short

The United States is bristling at the suggestion Germany might miss its own defense spending target, which is already short of the NATO goal, prompting comments from officials, including U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell.

NATO countries have pledged to move toward spending 2 percent of GDP on defense and Chancellor Angela Merkel's government had pledged to increase spending to 1.5 percent by 2024. Last year, at the NATO summit in Brussels, Trump criticized Germany's contribution to the NATO and Merkel countered that the European country is the organization's "second largest providers of troops," according to The Guardian.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz's budget plan, which was presented to the nation's cabinet on Wednesday, foresaw Germany's defense spending rising to 1.37 percent of national income in 2020, but decline to 1.25 by 2023, according to the dpa news agency, which reviewed a copy of the proposal.

NATO PLEDGES TO BOOST DEFENSE SPENDING AFTER STERN WORDS FROM TRUMP

Following the news of Germany's expected contributions to NATO, U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell said, "NATO members clearly pledged to move towards, not away, from 2 percent by 2024. That the German government would even be considering reducing its already unacceptable commitments to military readiness is a worrisome signal to Germany’s 28 NATO Allies."

Following his comments, Wolfgang Kubicki, the deputy chairman of the left-leaning Free Democrats (FDP) said Foreign Minister Heiko Mass should declare the ambassador "persona non grata" saying Grenell interfered in the country's sovereign affairs.

"Any U.S. diplomat who acts like a high commissioner of an occupying power must learn that our tolerance also knows its limits," Kubicki said, according to Deutsche Welle.

There is another cabinet meeting on Thursday which is expected to address the defense spending budget. Merkel said her government "could still hit the 1.5 percent target in budgets down the road," The New York Times reported.

US AMBASSADOR GRENELL BLASTS GERMANY FOR CELEBRATING IRANIAN ISLAMIC REVOLUTION ANNIVERSARY

Criticism of Grenell comes just weeks after he called on Berlin to scrap Nord Stream 2, “a gas pipeline being laid across the Baltic Sea to deliver gas from Russia to Germany, and threatened firms involved in the project with sanctions” Deutsche Welle reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.