Defense Secretary James Mattis gave an ultimatum to allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Wednesday: Pay up or else.
Mattis told them if they do not boost their defense spending to the goals set and agreed to by the alliance, the United States may “alter its relationship with them, The Associated Press is reporting.
BREAKING: Pentagon chief Mattis tells NATO allies to increase defense spending by year's end or US will 'moderate its commitment'
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) February 15, 2017
“I owe it to you all to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms,” Mattis said. “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show its support for our common defense.”
The statement came during a private meeting with the defense ministers from the other NATO countries. It marks a significant escalation in Washington’s long-running frustration that several NATO countries are not spending the 2 percent required of their gross domestic product on defense – as they agreed when they signed into the mutual defense organization.
During his run for the White House, President Trump often pointed out that NATO allies needed to pay their fair share and at various times said the alliance was “obsolete.”
“No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of western values,” Mattis said. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s security than you do. Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance and for the freedoms we inherited, which are now clearly threatened.”
As it stands, only five of NATO’s 28 countries spend at least 2 percent on defense: the UK, Poland, Estonia, Greece and the US. Major members that do not include France (1.78 percent), Turkey (1.56), Germany (1.19), Italy (1.11) and Canada (.99). Others have pledged to do so but not until 2024.
Mattis said those countries who are spending two percent need to help encourage those who aren’t to pay their fair share.
The remarks come as NATO countries debate how to deal with Russia following it’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and the attempted interference with the 2016 presidential election.