Publicat: 18 Februarie, 2017 - 10:37
The Times: Europeans reject call to match US spending on Nato

The “grown-ups” in President Trump’s top team decamped to Europe yesterday to reassure a nervous continent but faced resistance to their calls for Nato members to pay their way.

Despite fears raised by Mr Trump’s loose rhetoric on Russia, James Mattis, his defence secretary, and Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, insisted that the US remained fundamentally committed to European security.

Mike Pence, the vice-president, and John Kelly, the homeland security secretary, were due to arrive in Munich last night to underline the same message at the annual security conference today.

Deep suspicions about the US administration persisted, however, with the German foreign minister joining Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, in pushing back against America’s call for Nato members to spend at least 2 per cent of national income on defence.

France was also critical of Mr Trump’s “confused” Middle East peace policy after the president dropped Washington’s long-held requirement for a two-state solution after talks with Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, on Wednesday.

 

“American security is permanently tied to the security of Europe,” Mr Mattis told the conference yesterday, reasserting his commitment to Nato’s Article 5, which states that all members will help another if attacked. “Trans-Atlantic unity buttresses European unity, a fact we recognise in the context of cooperation between Nato and the European Union.”

This was in stark contrast to Mr Trump’s welcome for Brexit and delighted many who believed that the new administration wanted to unstitch the EU.

We in Europe will have to take on more responsibility but security policy should not be reduced to the size of defence budget said  Sigmar Gabriel, German foreign minister

Ursula von der Leyen, the German defence minister, gave Mr Mattis a cautious welcome in words that may have been directed more at the White House than at the defence secretary.

“Our American friends know well that their tone on Europe and Nato has a direct influence on the cohesion of our continent,” she said. “A stable European Union is just as much in the American interest as a united Nato.”

While Ms von der Leyen pledged to increase German defence spending, Sigmar Gabriel, the country’s foreign minister, rejected the call.

“We in Europe will have to take on more responsibility but security policy should not be reduced to the size of defence budgets,” he said at the close of a G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bonn. “If we do that we will not be able to fight climate change, or water shortages, or poverty, or the crises that lead to violent conflicts.”

While this could be seen as playing to his party’s base as Germany entered its election season, it echoed Mr Juncker’s rejection of the demand.

“I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this,” Mr Juncker told the Munich conference. “I do not like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military. If you look at what Europe is doing in defence, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the US looks rather different.”

Boris Johnson revealed in Munich that Britain intervened to try to change Mr Trump’s short-lived ban on visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries.

(David Carter, Bonn)

FOTO: Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, insisted that the US remained fundamentally committed to European security as he met G20 foreign ministers in Bonn