US patience 'won't endure forever': Pence tells NATO to spend more, or else
During his visit to Brussels, Secretary of Defense James Mattis “spoke very plainly about the frustration of the American people” that the US currently provides over 70 percent of NATO’s funding, Pence told reporters on Monday, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“I don’t know what the answer is to 'or else’, but I know that the patience of the American people will not endure forever,” he said, asked what specifically the US would do if NATO members failed to meet the goal.
“It is my privilege to express strong support of President Trump and the USA for NATO and our transatlantic alliance,” Pence said. “America will do our part, but Europe’s defense requires Europe’s commitment as much as ours.”
Reminding the press that NATO leaders agreed to spend at least 2 percent of the GDP on their military back in 2014 during the summit in Wales, Pence pointed out that many countries “still lack a clear, credible path to meet this minimum goal.”
“If you don’t have a plan, get one,” he said. “The world needs NATO’s strength and leadership now more than ever.”
‘Hold Russia accountable’
As proof of US commitment to the alliance, Pence referred to US troops currently deploying across Eastern Europe “in the wake of Russia’s efforts to redraw international borders by force.”
While Washington will “continue to hold Russia accountable” for events in Ukraine, Pence said the US leadership will “pray for peace” and urged “both sides to abide by the ceasefire that began today.”
‘Firm and clear message‘
Stoltenberg told reporters that the alliance has heard the same thing from every member of the Trump administration – from Pence to Mattis, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
“We heard a firm and clear message from the US,” the NATO secretary-general said, that while the US is “firmly committed” to the transatlantic alliance, the allies need to pull their own weight.
“We need both to spend more, and to spend better,” improving efficiency and reducing the costs, Stoltenberg said.
At the same time, he reassured NATO members that “our collective defense clause is unconditional,” meaning that countries that fail to live up to the spending threshold will not be left out in the cold.