Donald Trump has assured the head of Nato that the US remains “strongly committed” to the military alliance, despite scathing criticisms made by the Republican during his successful election campaign.
During speeches in recent months, the President-elect has told his supporters Nato was “obsolete”, that it no longer represents good value for the US and that it wouldn’t be a bad thing if it were to dissolve.
Yet in what appears to be the latest in a string of U-turns since he rode a wave of populism to the White House, Mr Trump has reportedly rowed back on those strong criticisms of the organisation.
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg told the BBC’s Today programme on Thursday morning that he had spoken personally to Mr Trump since the election result was declared.
“Trump clearly stated to me and other European leaders after he was elected that he will be, and the United States will remain, strongly committed to Nato, and that the security guarantees to Europe stand,” he said.
Mr Trump’s two key criticisms of Nato are that the US contributes more money and forces to the alliance than its other members, for no discernible reward, and that the body is outdated when the greatest threat its nations face is international terrorism.
On the latter point, Mr Stoltenberg insisted Nato “plays a key role in the fight against terrorism”.
“Our biggest military operation ever, in Afghanistan, was a direct response to a terrorist attack in the United States,” he said.
As for the spending issue, he said Mr Trump “has a fair point”. “It is not fair that the burden sharing in Nato is as imbalanced as it is today. I would like to see more allies increase defence spending.”
Mr Stoltenberg was in the UK for a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May, in which he praised Britain for spending Nato’s preferred target of 2 per cent of GDP on defence – putting it alongside only Poland, Estonia and Greece in a small group of European countries to do so.
Mr Trump has himself highlighted the figure, suggesting the US would be reluctant to come to the aid of a country which had failed to meet the 2 per cent target.
And in his meeting with Ms May, the Nato chief is reported to have urged members to raise spending as a way of easing US relations and securing a “transatlantic bond”.
“By doing so you lead by example,” he told Ms May. “It’s good to see that other allies are now following you and they are starting to increase defence spending.
“They still have a long way to go but are starting to move in the right direction.”
The Prime Minister backed the calls and said the UK will remain a “cornerstone” of the alliance.
She said: “The UK wants to remain the cornerstone of the alliance and we very much believe in the alliance and our contribution to it.
“I think as we look in the face of Russian aggression, of course here in the UK we are committed to our 2 per cent of GDP being spent on defence, we are contributing troops to defence of eastern Europe with the Nato operations and our commitment is significant in all of these issues and we’ve agreed to maintain our nuclear deterrent.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said Mr Stoltenberg “relayed his recent conversation with President-elect Trump, in which they had agreed on the enduring importance of Nato”.
Read more at independent