European countries were told to increase their military spending or the US will pull support for Nato in a tense summit of member states in Brussels today.
New US defence secretary General James Mattis delivered the threat to Nato allies today as he joined his British counterpart Sir Michael Fallon in ramping up demands for other member states to pay their fair share.
Gen Mattis insisted the new US administration still regarded the alliance as the ‘fundamental bedrock’ of the transatlantic community – despite Donald Trump branding it ‘obsolete’ just last month.
New US defence secretary General James Mattis, left, delivered the threat to Nato allies today as he joined his British counterpart Sir Michael Fallon, right, in ramping up demands for other member states to pay their fair share
But making clear the US would not bankroll Nato come-what-may, he added: ‘America will meet its responsibilities but if your nations don’t want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defence.’
Both the UK and the US want other Nato members to match their target of spending at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence.
Gen Mattis told European members: ‘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 was at his first Nato summit since taking office last month. At the meeting today Sir Michael said he had urged those countries which were not meeting the 2 per cent target to at least commit to annual increases to their defence budgets.
‘An annual increase that we’re asking them to commit to would at least demonstrate good faith,’ he said.
But his message was undermined by claims earlier this week that Britain failed to meet the 2 per cent target last year.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, pictured at today’s Nato summit in Brussels left, and General Jim Mattis, US Secretary of Defence, pictured right, want other Nato members to match their target of spending at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence
New US defence secretary General James Mattis, pictured left alongside Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, told European countries to increase their military spending or the US will pull support for Nato in a tense summit of member states in Brussels today
Faster than expected economic growth meant expenditure on the military was equivalent to 1.98 per cent of UK plc in 2016, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
The PM trumpeted Britain’s commitment to the target during her visit to the White House last month.
The IISS unveiled the calculations in its annual Military Balance report yesterday.
However, the Ministry of Defence insisted the figures were ‘wrong’ and the UK was still above the threshold.
And today Nato offiicals confirmed Britain remained one of just five of the allianc’es members meeting the 2 per cent target.
Sir Michael – who held one-to-one talks with General Mattis – re-iterated Britain’s support for demands for the other member states to do more.
‘There is no uncertainty about America’s commitment to Nato. The President reassured our Prime Minister that he is 100 per cent committed to Nato,’ he told reporters today.
Theresa May, pictured in the Copeland by-election, has repeatedly berated other Nato countries for failing to hit the target
‘I am looking forward to working with US Defence Secretary James Mattis on the steps needed to modernise Nato, to make it more agile and more responsive and on how we can persuade other countries to meet their fair share of the burden by increasing their expenditure to 2 per cent.’
Tory former defence minister Julian Brazier has urged the Government to change the definition of foreign aid so it can be spent on defence projects Britain’s Armed Forces are involved in overseas.
He also said the UK should spend more than 2 per cent of GDP on defence to reflect the growing threats against the West today.
Mr Brazier said the UK should increase defence spending regardless of whether the figures were correct.
He told MailOnline: ‘I’m one of those who believes that we may well need to increase it beyond 2 per cent because of the threats we face in the world today.
‘Russia is resurgent, obviously there’s a problem with ISIS and growing issues in the Far East as well – China and North Korea and so on.
‘So I think that whether or not this number is correct I think we may well need to look at a higher level of defence spending.’
And calling for the foreign aid budget to be used on defence projects, Mr Brazier added: ‘I support the 0.7 per cent for foreign aid but I’ve also always thought that we need to look at the definition of that – we’re still tied by statute now to a 14-year-old definition at what counts at foreign aid and clearly helping countries with their security is an important part of aid.
Gen Mattis, right, insisted the new US administration still regarded the alliance as the ‘fundamental bedrock’ of the transatlantic community’ – despite Donald Trump branding it ‘obsolete’ just last month. Pictured, Gen Mattis with his UK counterpart Sir Michael Fallon, left
‘So I wouldn’t be in favour of giving up on the 0.7 per cent target but I would be in favourite of re-visiting the definition because if you’re helping a country with its security, then that’s clearly aid.’
Gen Mattis’s appearance at Nato headquarters today had been anxiously anticipated after Mr Trump appeared to question his support for the alliance during the US election campaign, describing it as ‘obsolete’.
While the president has since said he is committed to the alliance, his defence secretary’s hardline comments will be seen as a clear sign of his determination to secure reform.
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg insisted Gen Mattis had voiced a ‘very strong commitment’ to the alliance during the meeting, but acknowledged that more needed to be done when it came to burden-sharing.
Although the alliance as a whole had halted the cuts in defence spending in 2015 and expenditure had risen last year, he said some individual member states were still ‘struggling’ to increase resources for their armed forces.
‘We all understand that we are safer and stronger together. Especially in times of turmoil and uncertainty, we need a strong transatlantic partnership and a strong Nato,’ Mr Stoltenberg said.
‘Step by step, we are moving in the right direction but there is still a very long way to go.’