Amid a storm of criticism from the Trump administration over its low level of defense spending, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas sought to allay concerns that Berlin was reneging on its commitment to increase its contributions to the NATO Alliance.
“We will stand by our commitments,” Maas said on April 3 at the NATO Engages event in Washington. “I know that our budgetary process is sometimes difficult for outsiders to understand…however, we made a firm commitment to invest more money in our defense and we intend to keep our word.”
Following the first ever speech by a NATO Secretary General to the United States Congress, Washington has made it clear that US support for the transatlantic alliance remains steadfast.
“The response to the secretary general’s speech was very strong [and] bipartisan,” US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said at the NATO Engages event in Washington shortly after NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg’s address to Congress on April 3. “It was not like the usual addresses we see in Congress where the Democrats stand up on one thing and the Republicans stand up on another,” she explained. “Everyone stood up an applauded.”
US vice president also warns Turkey against purchase of Russian missile defense systemUS Vice President Mike Pence on April 3 chastised Germany for not spending enough on defense, warned Turkey against going ahead with the purchase of a Russian missile defense system, cautioned against the rise of China, and sought to reassure NATO allies that they will always have the United States’ support.
US President Donald J. Trump has led the charge against NATO allies who do not meet the 2 percent of GDP defense spending target set at the Alliance’s Wales Summit in 2014. All allies are supposed to meet that goal by 2024. So far only seven of NATO’s twenty-nine member states meet that target; Germany is among those that lag behind.
On April 3, the eve of NATO’s seventieth anniversary, it was Pence’s turn to take allies to task.
The agreement between Greece and the newly-named Republic of North Macedonia, which ended a twenty-seven-year dispute between the two countries, “sends a clear message that we can resolve disputes through dialogue, by good faith… and using history not as a prison but as a school,” Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said on April 3. He said that the success of the two Western Balkans neighbors’ reconciliation can be a “blueprint for the Balkans — the powder keg of Europe in the past — to help resolve the other very difficult disputes that still exist” in the region and around the world.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg used his address to a joint meeting of the US Congress in Washington on April 3 to play down differences with US President Donald J. Trump and play up the virtues of the military alliance that turns seventy this year.
NATO “has not lasted for seventy years out of a sense of nostalgia or of sentiment,” but rather “because it is in the national interest of each and every one of our nations,” Stoltenberg told lawmakers.
The Trump administration has prevented Turkey from receiving equipment related to the F-35 fighter jet until Ankara cancels an order of the Russian S-400 Triumf missile defense system, which it says would compromise the security of the F-35.
Çavuşoğlu insisted that Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s is a “done deal and we will not step back.”
“The future of NATO is not just a military future. It is about economic strength, it is about governance and rule of law… and it is about the ways in which we can and must be successful against the rise of these new autocracies,” retired Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones, Jr., a former Supreme Allied Commander Europe and executive chairman emeritus of the Atlantic Council, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
As NATO celebrates its 70th anniversary this week expect to hear one message loud and clear: the Alliance is strong and united.
In July 2018, US President Donald J. Trump plunged NATO’s Brussels Summit into chaos by excoriating allies on the subject of defense spending and threatening to pull the United States out of the Alliance.
This time will be different.
Corbyn is not likely to accept the prime minister’s invitation unconditionally, since it would risk splitting his own Labour Party at the very moment when opinion polls are indicating that it appears to be moving ahead of May’s fiercely divided Conservative Party.
His immediate reaction was cautious, in keeping with a man who does not want to see Labour tarnished with the reputation of being the party that delivered Brexit for the Conservative government. He was pleased, he said, that the prime minister was now “prepared to reach out.”