James Mattis, the new US defense secretary, has reassured his British counterpart that Washington has an ‘unshakeable commitment’ to Nato, despite Donald Trump previously casting the military alliance as obsolete.
During a phone call with Michael Fallon on his first full day in office, Mattis ’emphasized the United States’ unshakeable commitment to Nato’, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said in a statement.
Ahead of his inauguration, Trump told two European newspapers he had long warned that Nato had ‘problems.’
Talks: New Defense Secretary James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis called Britain’s Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon (right) to call the U.S. commitment to Nato ‘unshakeable’
Different view: Trump said before the election that he had problems with Nato, including: ‘Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago.’
‘Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago,’ he said, referring to its Cold War, post-World War II origins.
‘Number two, the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.’
Trump said in his inaugural address on Friday that the United States had ‘subsidized the armies of other countries’, highlighting a common cause of friction in the 28-nation alliance.
In response to Trump’s remarks, German chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Europe has to take responsibility for itself.
During his phone call with Fallon, Mattis also ’emphasized the United States and the United Kingdom will always enjoy a uniquely close relationship, reflected in our defense ties which are a bedrock of US security’, according to his spokesman.
As Theresa May prepared to visit Washington on Friday, the White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the special relationship between Britain and the US ‘can always be closer’.
The Pentagon said that the first call made by Mattis on Monday, his first full day in the job, was to Canada’s Defense Minister, Harjit Saijan.
Next call: Mattis spoke to Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary-general, who was at a meeting in Kuwait City, Kuwait, with members of the Islamic Cooperation Initiative
‘The two reiterated the depth and breadth of the relationship shared between the United States and Canada as North American Aerospace Defense Command partners, NATO allies and North American neighbors,’ the Pentagon spokesman said.
They also spoke about the war against ISIS – and defense relations with Mexico.
And the Pentagon said Matts had also spoken to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg ‘to reconnect and discuss the key role NATO plays in transatlantic security’.
Mattis ‘wanted to place the call on his first full day in office to reinforce the importance he places on the alliance’, the spokesman said.’
The two leaders discussed the importance of our shared values, and the secretary emphasized that when looking for allies to help defend these values, the United States always starts with Europe, Davis said.
Both pledged to consult in the months to come and look forward to meeting in person during next month’s NATO defense ministerial.