Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Pentagon chief Mattis gives NATO members an ultimatum to boost defense spending

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis waits for the start of the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. For U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the next few days will be a reassurance tour with a twist. He is expected to tell allies the U.S. is committed to NATO and is also hoping to secure bigger defense spending commitments. [Associated Press]
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis waits for the start of the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. For U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the next few days will be a reassurance tour with a twist. He is expected to tell allies the U.S. is committed to NATO and is also hoping to secure bigger defense spending commitments. [Associated Press]
Published Feb. 15, 2017

BRUSSELS — 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.

He did not detail what the United States might do if NATO members failed to fall in line.

Echoing a demand made repeatedly by President Donald Trump, Mattis said NATO must adopt a plan this year that sets milestone dates for governments to meet a military funding goal of 2 percent of gross domestic product.

The Pentagon chief called it a "fair demand" based on the "political reality" in Washington.

"No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values," Mattis told the alliance's 27 other defense ministers, according to a text of his remarks. "Americans cannot care more for your children's future security than you do."

Attending his first NATO defense ministers' meeting, Mattis tried to make his case by citing the threat from Russia. The gathering came at an awkward time for the United States, after Trump fired national security adviser Michael Flynn over Flynn's communications with Russia before President Barack Obama left office Jan. 20.

Mattis noted Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and the Islamic State group's hold over parts of Iraq and Syria, and said that "some in this alliance have looked away in denial of what is happening."

"Despite the threats from the east and south, we have failed to fill gaps in our NATO response force or to adapt," he added.

The warning reflects Trump's wish for greater sharing of military costs. Trump has rattled European nations by suggesting the U.S. might not defend allies unwilling to fulfill their financial obligations as NATO members.

Mattis didn't go as far.

British's defense chief, Michael Fallon, said Mattis told NATO members that "Congress will not continue to tolerate unequal burden-sharing." But Fallon said Mattis also appeared to welcome a British proposal to create a road map for increased spending by other countries.

Along with the U.S. and Britain, the other countries that also reach NATO's benchmark for military spending are Estonia, Poland and debt-ridden Greece.

"I have called today in the plenary session for those countries that haven't met 2 percent to agree to at least increase their budget annually," Fallon said. "An annual increase that we're asking them to commit to would at least demonstrate good faith."

The United States is by far NATO's most powerful member. It spends more on defense than all the others combined. The U.S. spent 3.61 percent of American GDP last year, according to NATO estimates — a level that has somewhat tapered off in recent years.

Germany, by contrast, spent 1.19 percent of its overall budget on defense. Ten countries spend even less, and seven — including Canada, Italy and Spain — would have to virtually double military spending to reach the target. One, Luxembourg, would require a four-fold increase to get close.

Mattis recognized Europe's worries and the desire for clarity on America's commitment to NATO. Trump has criticized the alliance as "obsolete" and repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, stoking fears of a new U.S. approach to Moscow that includes lessened support for European allies near Russia's border who worry about being the next target.

In a brief public statement, made while standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Mattis called the alliance "a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the trans-Atlantic community."

The allies' interest and concern about the latest furor in Washington was evident as officials crowded around televisions at the NATO meeting to watch Mattis' initial appearance with Stoltenberg. Ministers immediately clustered around the retired Marine general as he entered the meeting room.

Stoltenberg said he has spoken to Trump twice by telephone, and received similar reassurance from Mattis and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"They have all conveyed the same message," he said, adding: "That is, that the United States will stay committed to the trans-Atlantic partnership."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. In this Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, speaks to reporters outside the West Wing in Washington. President Donald Trump's legal team will include Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general, former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) [J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP]
    The former Florida attorney general reportedly will join former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.
  4. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  5. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  6. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  8. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  9. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  10. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement