The new US defence secretary has told Nato members that Washington will “moderate its commitment” to the alliance if they do not increase their spending on defence. James Mattis’s comments repeat President Donald Trump’s demand that members raise their spending on defence to meet a target of 2% of their GDP.
Only five of the 27 countries do so. Earlier, Mr Mattis had hailed Nato as the “fundamental bedrock” of trans-Atlantic co-operation. According to a text of his remarks, Mr Mattis said at the Nato headquarters in Brussels: “No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defence of Western values.
“Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” he added, as he met defence ministers for the first time on Wednesday.
Mr Trump’s comments, during his campaign, that the US might not defend allies who do not contribute their “fair share” to Nato, had worried many European nations, particularly those near Russia’s border.
While hailing the alliance’s ability to respond to security challenges, Mr Mattis said it was a “fair demand that all who benefit from the best defence in the world carry their proportionate share of the necessary cost to defend freedom”.
Only the US, UK, Estonia, Greece and Poland currently meet the spending target.