Mattis cautions NATO over defense budgets; Pence buoys alliance

In his first meeting with member states at the annual NATO summit in Brussels, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told representatives of the defense alliance Wednesday that America demands member countries contribute more to collective security or risk U.S. retreat from the union.

“I owe it to you all 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 the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show its support for our common defense,” Mattis said to members in a closed-door meeting.

One day following his remarks in Brussels, Mattis wrote in a statement:  “No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values.”

In face of a resurgent Russia and the rise of ISIS, NATO expects all member states to devote 2.0 percent of their annual GDP to its defense budget.

As of 2016, only five, the U.S., Poland, the UK, Estonia and Greece meet current spending thresholds. Over the past two-year period, several NATO member states have raised or lowered defense spending, despite adopting a guideline to spend 2.0 percent on defense at a 2014 NATO meeting in Wales.

President Trump has repeatedly called for NATO members to meet the 2.0 percent target.

Despite Mattis’ warnings, Vice President Mike Pence aimed to hearten alliance members at the Munich Security Conference, saying the U.S. would “stand with Europe” and would remain “(NATO’s) greatest ally.”

Mr. Pence pledged the U.S. would increase its military budget to meet growing international threats.

Speaking after German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who vowed to increase Germany’s defense budget, Pence did soothe anxiety among NATO member states, but seconded Mattis’ remarks, saying it was time for members to satisfy defense spending requirements and honor security commitments.

Following Ms. Merkel and Mr. Pence’s addresses, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov inveighed against NATO’s military buildup in Eastern Europe, support for Ukraine and drew attention to the need for the Kremlin and the West to fight shy of conflict and engage in diplomacy.

Appealing for cooperation, Lavrov described NATO as “a Cold War institution,” and expressed the Kremlin’s desire to see a fledgling relationship which favors “creating a democratic and just world order.”

“If you want, you can call it a post-West world order when each country, based on its sovereignty within the rules of international law, will strive to find a balance between its own national interests and the national interests of partners,” Lavrov said.

 

[Breitbart] [AP] [Deutsche Welle] [Photo courtesy AP/Virginia Mayo via Daily Mail]