During a closed-door meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis warned NATO allies that America would "moderate its commitment" to the alliance if other member countries did not increase defense spending by the end of the year. "No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values," Mattis said to the alliance's 27 defense ministers in attendance. "Americans cannot care more for your children's future security than you do."
At this point, only five of the 28 member countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Greece, Estonia, and Poland, "meet the alliance's goal of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense," The Hill reported. President Trump has repeatedly said he will push NATO allies to pull their weight, even going so far as to suggest the U.S. would not defend allies that don't pay their fair share.
Mattis did not reiterate Trump's threat, only saying that it's a "government reality" at this point that the U.S. will not tolerate members dragging their feet on reaching their commitment. "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," Mattis said.
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Earlier in public remarks ahead of the NATO meeting, which marks Mattis' first as defense secretary, he called the alliance a "fundamental bedrock for the U.S. and all the transatlantic community" — a far cry from Trump's description of NATO as "obsolete."
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