In his first day in office, Defense Secretary James Mattis called NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, assuring him of America’s unshakable “commitment” to the NATO alliance, which he called the most successful military alliance in modern world history.”
President Trump’s comments over the campaign, complaining the US was spending too much money defending other NATO nations, and suggesting the alliance was “obsolete,” had fueled outspoken criticism from NATO officials, as well as much of Europe.
Mattis appears to be trying to play peacemaker with NATO leadership, insisting that when the US needs support they “always start with Europe.” Tensions between Trump and Europe, however, are expected to endure for the time being, irrespective of such assurances.
The real test of US-NATO relations is likely to be the question of rapprochement with Russia, as any improvement in US-Russia ties will necessarily fuel complaints from European NATO members that they are being insufficiently pro-NATO by not continuing on with the new Cold War.
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