James Mattis threatens to moderate US backing for Nato over budgets
Donald Trump’s defence secretary warns US will no longer ‘carry disproportionate share of defence of western values’
The new US defence secretary has delivered an ultimatum to Nato allies, saying they must either honour military spending pledges or face the prospect of America “moderating” its commitment to the transatlantic organisation.
James Mattis issued the warning to the other 27 members of the alliance on Wednesday during a closed session at Nato headquarters in Brussels on his first visit to Europe as a senior member of Donald Trump’s cabinet.
Mattis’s predecessors have made similar threats over the last decade during visits to Nato, but without the same conviction. “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,” he said.
“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.”
Trump repeatedly said on the campaign trail last year that it was time for European countries to stump up a fair share for an organisation he denounced as “obsolete”. He created alarm among other Nato members when he said the US might not automatically come to the defence of a fellow member under attack.
Only five of the 28 members meet Nato’s target of spending at least 2% of GDP on defence: the US, the UK, Poland, Greece and Estonia. The US spends 3.6% on defence and the UK 2.2%, based on Nato figures for 2016, while Germany spends 1.1%, France 1.7%, Italy 1.1% and Spain 0.9%.
Mattis did not spell out what he meant by “moderating” support.
The Obama administration, in response to
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014
, reversed US troop withdrawals from Europe and began the biggest deployment since the end of the cold war, with the first of
4,000 extra troops arriving in Poland