(Vatican Radio) The new U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has warned allies of the NATO military alliance that they must start increasing defense spending by year's end or the Trump administration will "moderate its commitment" to them. Mattis made the remarks at a NATO summit in Brussels which was also overshadowed by reports that Russia violated a Cold War-era treaty by deploying a cruise missile, charges Moscow denies.
Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:
Mattis echoed a demand made repeatedly by President Donald Trump: The alliance must adopt a plan this year to force governments to meet a military funding goal of two percent of gross domestic product.
He did not detail what the United States might do if NATO members failed to fall in line. But he warned the Trump administration would "moderate its commitment to them".
Mattis made clear that NATO face major challenges such as Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. "The events of 2014 were sobering and we must continue to adapt to what’s been revealed to us in terms of our security challenges. The alliance remains a fundamental bedrock for the U.S.,” he said.
The NATO alliance is also worried about other Russian actions. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance would be concerned if reports that Russia has violated a Cold War-era treaty by deploying a cruise missile prove true.
U.S. intelligence agencies claim the missile became operational late last year, possibly violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on the development and testing of cruise missiles.
On Wednesday, the Kremlin denied that Russia had violated this key treaty.
Amid these tensions, Stoltenberg seemed please that the new US defense secretary did not repeat President Trump's remarks that the alliance had become obsolete. “The challenges that we face are the most complex and demanding in a generation.
Neither Europe nor North America can tackle them alone.Therefore I welcome the US commitment to the transatlantic bond,” the NATO chief said.
Yet more discussions are expected on who will fund the expensive alliance.