Warning that if NATO countries do not boost their defense spending to 2% the U.S. may alter its relationship.
As reported by The Washington Post:
“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,” Mattis said.
“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.”
“No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values,” Mattis said. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s security than you do. Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened.”
“The statements came during a closed-doors meeting with defense ministers from other NATO countries and were provided to reporters traveling with the defense secretary to Brussels. It marks an escalation in Washington’s long-running frustration that many NATO countries do not spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product as they have pledged. President Trump often made that point during his upstart run for the White House, at various times calling the alliance “obsolete” while grousing that its 28 members need to pay “their fair share.”
That impatience, Mattis said, is now a “governmental reality.”
The remarks come as NATO confronts how to handle Russia following its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia hacked Democratic Party officials during the presidential campaign last year.
“Fellow ministers, when the Cold War ended we all had hopes,” Mattis said. “The year 2014 awakened us to a new reality: Russia used force to alter the borders of one of its sovereign neighbors, and on Turkey’s border [the Islamic State] emerged and introduced a ruthless breed of terror, intent on seizing territory and establishing a caliphate. While these events have unfolded before our eyes, some in this alliance have looked away in denial of what was happening.”
Mattis’s ultimatum would impact Germany the most. The increase would result in a military larger than Britain’s. That would be a profound shift for a country that has long had a pacifist tradition.
Britain has generally tried to ally itself with the Trump administration as London negotiates an exit from the European Union. But British leaders have urged Trump to maintain his military commitment to NATO and to Europe.