17 Feb 2017

NATO threatened with reduced US support over defence spending

New US defence secretary, James Mattis delivers ultimatum to NATO allies over military spending pledges.

Donald Trump’s new defence secretary, James Mattis, has warned NATO that they will no longer “carry a disproportionate share of defence western values.”

The ultimatum came during a closed session at NATO headquarters in Brussels on his first visit to Europe as a senior member of Donald Trump’s cabinet, where he issues the warning to 27 members of the alliance.

There have been similar threats made over the last decade during visits to NATO.

He said: “I owe it to you to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States, and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms.

“America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defence.”

Donald Trump described the group as “obsolete” during his campaign, and suggested that the United States would only provide military aid to a threatened member if it had paid its fair share, and since then, Mr Mattis warned that a rise in military spending from NATO was needed to avoid its most powerful member “moderate its commitment to the alliance.

Last year, the United States spent 3.6% of its GDP on defence, the highest ratio of any NATO member (and the highest total military budget in the world). The target agreed by all NATO members in 2006 was 2%. Some members, which tend to have relatively small economies by NATO standards, fell short and have promised to meet their obligations by 2024.

Estonia and Poland now meet the target, and Latvia and Lithuania are on course to do so. In contrast, some of the alliance′s bigger and richer members remain resistant to pulling their weight.

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