U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday issued a sharp ultimatum to NATO Wednesday, telling allies they must start increasing defense spending by year's end or the Trump administration will "moderate its commitment" to them.
"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", James Mattis said.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - whose members agreed in 2014 to work towards meeting the target by 2024 - includes defence ministry budgets and pensions as well as funds for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, while the Unite Nations has a different definition for military expenditure. The American ships had been moved, the Pentagon said, to "ensure maritime security"-in other words, to show force without the risks of doing what Mattis was evidently prepared to do last week: directly confront Iran in a way that could have set off a deadly military engagement".
As he entered the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg avoided a question about Flynn, saying it's a crucial time in the trans-Atlantic alliance and neither Europe nor the US can tackle their challenges alone. The potential interdiction seemed in keeping with recent instructions from Mr. Trump, reinforced in meetings with Mr. Mattis and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, to crack down on Iran's support of terrorism.
"He says, "We stand with you, ' and kind of ignores what the president has said in the past, and so far the president hasn't objected".
Earlier this month, Trump vowed strong support for the alliance and committed to attending a meeting of NATO leaders in Europe in May after speaking to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Defence secretary Michael Fallon told reporters that he would be urging other member states to increase defence spending.
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"The alliance remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community, bonded as we are together", Mattis said.
But how much Mattis can do to push back against Trump, or even if it is his job to do so, is up for debate, said Mark Cancian, a defense expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies who had worked with Mattis previously. During his campaign, Trump said he would consider cutting ties with nations that failed to contribute the 2 percent of gross domestic product that members are expected to spend on defense.
Stoltenberg highlighted progress as allies attempt to reverse many years of defense spending decline.
Britain is meeting NATO's target of spending 2% of its GDP on defence, according to the military alliance.
But the Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania, who fear a repeat of Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, are on course to meet the 2 percent goal, while Romania is also heading towards that level.
He said alleged interference by the Kremlin in elections in Europe and the USA is "unacceptable" and "we need to call Russian Federation out each time". "We have made the first steps, but there is still a lot to do".