Donald Trump is 100 per cent behind Nato, Theresa May declared last night.
After their first talks in the White House, the Prime Minister said the US and the UK were united in their ‘unshakeable commitment’ to the alliance.
Both leaders recognise Nato as the ‘bulwark of our collective defence’, she said during a joint press conference.
Mr Trump said a ‘free and independent Britain is a blessing to the world’ in an enthusiastic welcome for Brexit
But the pair were set for a collision course on how to handle Vladimir Putin after President Trump said he hoped to have a ‘fantastic’ relationship with the Russian leader.
As Mrs May said she strongly supported continuing sanctions against Russia, Mr Trump’s team said lifting them was on the table.
Speaking about Nato, the Prime Minister said: ‘Today we have reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to this alliance. Mr President, I think you confirmed that you are 100 per cent behind Nato.’
Mr Trump’s apparent commitment represents a significant victory for Mrs May.
Earlier this month the president caused alarm across Europe as he dismissed Nato as ‘obsolete’ and expressed a desire for warmer ties with Mr Putin. During his campaign he even suggested he could withdraw the US from the alliance if other members did not spend more money on defence.
Mrs May pledged to work to persuade other EU leaders to meet their Nato commitment of spending 2 per cent of national income on defence.
She added that they needed to make sure it is as equipped to fight terrorism and cyber warfare as it is conventional forms of war.
The pair were set for a collision course on how to handle Vladimir Putin after President Trump said he hoped to have a ‘fantastic’ relationship with the Russian leader
VICTORY FOR PM AS TRUMP SOFTENS STANCE ON TORTURE
Donald Trump dropped his controversial threat to revive the use of torture yesterday, following a warning from Theresa May that it would force Britain to curb intelligence sharing.
In a dramatic about-turn, the US President indicated he would not order secret service interrogators to use torture despite maintaining ‘it works’. Speaking after his talks with the Prime Minister, Mr Trump said he would defer to his security advisers who are overwhelmingly opposed to the use of torture.
Mr Trump sparked an angry backlash on Thursday when he spoke out in favour of waterboarding, saying the West had to ‘fight fire with fire’ in the war on terrorism.
His comments sparked alarm in the British intelligence community, with sources warning rules banning intelligence sharing with states that use torture would limit vital co-operation with the US. But speaking alongside Mrs May at yesterday’s press conference, Mr Trump said he was going to bow to the advice of US Defense Secretary General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, who is opposed to torture.
However, Ukip leader Paul Nuttall yesterday said he would ‘probably be OK’ with waterboarding if it saved lives.
However, there were clear differences between the two leaders on Russia. In comments likely to alarm No 10, the President said of Mr Putin: ‘I don’t know the gentleman. I hope we have a fantastic relationship. That’s possible and it’s also possible that we won’t. We will see what happens.’
He added that it would not be possible to see how the relationship worked out until later.
‘I have had many times where I thought I would get along with people and I don’t like them at all,’ he said.
‘And I have had some where I didn’t think I was going to have much of a relationship and it turned out to be a great relationship.’
Mr Trump also said he hoped for a ‘great relationship’ with China.
Mrs May said the UK would not back down on Russian sanctions amid suggestions Mr Trump could agree to lift them during his phone call with president Putin today.
She said: ‘As far as the UK is concerned on sanctions for Russia in relation to their activities in the Ukraine, we have been very clear that we want to see the Minsk agreement [aimed at resolving the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels] fully implemented.
‘We believe the sanctions should continue until we see that Minsk agreement fully implemented, and we’ve been continuing to argue that inside the European Union.’
The comments sparked fears an emboldened Russia could launch a full-scale invasion in the Ukraine or Baltic states
Mr Trump did not answer directly whether he would remove the measures. But yesterday his senior adviser said US sanctions against Moscow, and other issues, would be on the table during the call. Aide Kellyanne Conway said ‘all of that is under consideration’.
Barack Obama’s administration and the EU hit Moscow with sanctions for sending in troops and supporting pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine. Earlier this month Mr Trump suggested his administration could lift them in return for a nuclear arms deal – irrespective of whether Mr Putin withdrew troops from the Ukraine.
The comments sparked fears an emboldened Russia could launch a full-scale invasion in the Ukraine or Baltic states.
Responding to the possibility of sanctions being lifted, the former head of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said: ‘I would urge strong caution against reversing any sanctions on Russia without concrete concessions.
‘Easing sanctions will only embolden Russia’s aggression in the region, putting the security interests of Ukraine and the United States in jeopardy.’