The paper quoted an unnamed German minister saying the gesture made during private talks was “outrageous” as the US President appeared to continue to heap pressure on Nato members to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence by 2024.
“The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” the minister is quoted as saying.
A White House spokesperson told CNBC that the report was “false”.
Hours after Merkel had left the country, Trump tweeted that Germany owes Nato “vast sums of money” and must pay the US more for the “powerful, and very expensive” defence it provides.
Trump complained in his first tweet about “fake news”, after his refusal to shake German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hand upon request at the Oval Office was widely reported, before moving on to make his claim on Nato debt.
Trump has repeatedly complained that the US provides the “lion’s share” of funding for the inter-governmental military alliance, and that America has been “ripped off” by other Nato members, including Germany. He has also slammed Nato as being “obsolete”.
Commentators point out no country technically “owes” the United States anything. Rather, each Nato member has its own military and own defence budget, and works with other signatories for the common defence.
Nato is also two-and-a-half years into a 10-year plan to get members to increase defence spending. Last year, Germany spent 1.19 per cent of its GDP on defence.
The Sunday Times reported Trump instructed aides to calculate how much German spending fell below the 2 per cent over the past 12 years, when the agreement was agreed, then added interest.
According to the journalist who broke the story, Trump appears to know how Nato works - but may have been borrowing from his ghost-written best-selling book, The Art of the Deal.
It’s the latest row Trump has brewing with a European ally after his administration refused to back down on suggestions it floated that British spies were involved in wire-tapping the then candidate, which prompted a rare and forceful denial from GCHQ.