Pentagon boss to NATO nations: Increase military spending
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BRUSSELS — In an ultimatum to America's allies,
Echoing President Donald Trump's demands for NATO countries to assume greater self-
Trump's Russia policy remains a mystery for many of America's closest international partners. As a candidate, the Republican president steered clear of criticizing Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he wanted a new era of
But that possibility grew murkier this week as Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, over the retired Army lieutenant general's communications with Russia before Trump took office. The departure of Flynn, who also promoted the idea of working with Moscow, has added to speculation about how the U.S.-Russian relationship might evolve.
Amid the uncertainty from Washington, the Kremlin may be testing the West's resolve. A U.S.
"No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the
The entire alliance seemed to hang on Mattis' every word Wednesday. Officials crowded around televisions at the NATO meeting in Brussels to watch the retired general's initial appearance with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Citing danger from Russia, Mattis told the closed meeting of ministers they must adopt a plan this year that sets dates for governments to meet a military funding goal of 2
Noting the threat posed by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, Mattis said: "Some in this alliance have looked away in denial of what is happening."
"We have failed to fill gaps in our NATO response force or to adapt," he added.
Trump has challenged the alliance to take on a greater share of military costs, even rattling European nations by suggesting the U.S. might not defend allies unwilling to
Mattis didn't go that far, and Wednesday's focus appeared to be on simply increasing military funding if not fully reaching the target. Many European governments face hostility to more military spending, especially as their slow economic recoveries force belt-tightening elsewhere.
The United States is by far NATO's most powerful member, spending more on
Germany, by contrast, spent 1.19
Along with the U.S., the other countries that do reach NATO's benchmark for military spending are Britain, Estonia, Poland and debt-ridden Greece.
Asked about Mattis' ultimatum, NATO chief Stoltenberg said allies need time to develop plans. Many are already talking about increasing commitments, he said.
"This is not the U.S. telling Europe to increase
Despite the sharpness of his demand, Mattis appeared to recognize Europe's worries and its leaders' desire for clarity on America's commitment to NATO.
In a brief public statement, made while standing alongside Stoltenberg, Mattis called the alliance "a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the trans-Atlantic community."
Associated Press writer Lorne Cook contributed to this report.