GERMANY is planning to recruit foreign EU mercenaries to boost soldier numbers as part of a drive to appease Donald Trump’s Nato demands, according to reports.

The country recently vowed to increase defence spending and grow its armed forces from 179,000 to 198,000 active troops by 2024.

But the German military – the Bundeswehr – has struggled to fill its ranks despite a recent recruitment drive.

And it is now said to be considering bringing in nationals from other European countries to bridge the gap.

Some 255,000 Poles, 185,000 Italians and 155,000 Romanians, aged between 18 and 40, live in Germany, magazine Der Spiegel said, citing a government document.

If just 10 per cent of them could be tempted to sign up, that could generate 50,000 new applicants, it said.

It is not clear if they would serve alongside Germans in regular regiments, or would form their on units similar to the French Foreign Legion.

The Defence Ministry wants to limit the group of potential recruits to those who have already lived in Germany for several years and speak fluent German, Der Spiegel said.

Such limits would aim to minimise concern among other EU countries about Germany luring their potential soldiers by offering better pay.

The move comes after US President Trump threatened to pull American support for Nato in July if Europe did not boost military spending.

Members of the alliance have pledged to spend two per cent of GDP on defence.

But Germany is one of several countries failing to meet that commitment – promising to boost military investment from 1.2 to 1.5 per cent by 2024.

Trump singled the country out for criticism, writing Angela Merkel's government a personal letter.

Trump at the time said: "Germany has to spend more money. Spain, France. It's not fair what they've done to the United States."

Chronic underfunding in the German army led to troops using broomsticks painted black as mock weapons during a Nato defence exercise this year, according to a report.

In 2015 it also emerged the German military was using ordinary civilian Mercedes vans as stand-ins for armoured personnel carriers.

And The Times reported all six of the country's submarines were this year put out of service at the same time due to various repairs.