There were hints yesterday that this was coming. Mattis spent last week on the Pacific Rim trying to calm allies who have been besh**ting themselves from fear for eight years as Obama’s weaselly vacillation in the face of Chinese aggression damaged our alliances in the region. This week he is with our NATO allies. There there is a different set of problems. Much of the alliance has become flaccid and views mutual defense as something that only those barely civilized Slavs and Balts need to worry about.
Last Friday, there was this report:
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen met US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon on Friday, reaffirming their alliance.
She said following the meeting that Mattis had expressed a clear and deep commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and that it was “a fair demand” for the US to request NATO partners to increase their share of funding.
On Monday, there was this:
Germany will move forward this week with plans to set up a joint fleet of Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J transport planes with France and join a Netherlands-led fleet of Airbus A330 tanker planes, defense ministry sources said on Monday.
The agreements come as Germany and other NATO members face increasing pressure from the United States to spend more for their own military and reach NATO’s target of devoting 2 percent of gross domestic product to defense spending.
And today this happened:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, echoing his boss in Washington, warned on Wednesday that the amount of American support for NATO could depend on whether other countries meet their own spending commitments.
“Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” Mr. Mattis said in his first speech to NATO allies since becoming defense secretary. “I owe it to you 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.”
“America will meet its responsibilities,” he said, but he made clear that American support had its limits.
In his speech to NATO defense ministers, Mr. Mattis repeated a call made by previous American secretaries of defense, for European allies to spend more on their militaries. His comments on Wednesday give teeth to President Trump’s expressed skepticism about the alliance.
What’s more, Mr. Mattis went further than his predecessors in apparently linking American contributions to the alliance to what other countries spend.
“If your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense,” he said.
For my part, I see this as positive. This was something Trump campaigned on and it is good to see his administration focus it once he is in office. The increase in spending won’t happen overnight and there will be some continual prodding that needs to be done but the first step in solving a problem is admitting there is a problem. And the Euros seem to realize that their current defense trajectory is not sustainable, that NATO is valuable, and that they can’t expect the US to continue to spend for Europe’s defense when Europe seems unwilling to do so. And the messenger makes a difference:
Martin Stropnicky, the Czech Republic’s defense minister, said in an interview that Mr. Mattis’s speech was not a surprise, and he did not view it as a threat. “He was absolutely calm and humble and modest,” Mr. Stropnicky said, adding that his government had increased its military spending. But the Czech Republic still spends just over 1 percent of G.D.P. on its military, according to NATO.