Britain will next week warn Nato allies in Europe that they must pay their “fair share” on defence amid fears that Donald Trump will withdraw US support if they fail to do so.
Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, will on Monday use a Brussels summit tell his European counterparts that they must abandon plans for an EU army and back Nato.
It comes after Mr Trump criticised Nato members during the US election campaign for failing to meet their obligation to spend 2 per cent of national income on defence during the election campaign.
He suggested that under his Presidency the US may refuse to come to the aid of Nato allies unless they “pay their bills” and “fulfil their obligations to us”.
The US last year funded 72 per cent of the alliance’s expenditure and is one of only five of the 28 members to meet the spending commitment. Britain also meets the target.
Defence spending of European members has fallen from 1.7 per cent to 1.4 percent on average. Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Spain all spent less than one per cent last year.
The fall in defence spending comes at a time of mounting Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria, which has been compared by one minister to a return to the days of the Cold War.
A Whitehall source told The Telegraph that Mr Trump’s election will give added “impetus” to Britain’s bid to encourage other EU nations to spend more on defence.
The source added: “The Americans in the past have said we’ll go along with it and keep making a bigger contribution than everyone else in Nato.
“If the new administration says you need to buck your ideas up that will concentrate minds. On the other side of the coin Europe is also facing greater security issues as well. There are more global problems than there were following the Cold War.”
On Thursday Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, said that his plans for an EU army had been given fresh impetus by Mr Trump’s victory.
“The Americans, to whom we owe much … will not ensure the security of the Europeans in the long term. We have to do this ourselves,” Mr Juncker said. “That is why we need a new start in the field of European defence, up to the goal of setting up a European army.”
Some European nations, led by France and Germany, want to use Brexit as an opportunity to press ahead with defence co-operation that has long been blocked by Britain.
Sir Michael said earlier this month that he wished that “other countries would get up there and meet the 2 per cent”. He has also vowed to block plans for a European army, despite the fact Britain is leaving the EU, warning that it will “undermine” Nato.
It comes after Mr Trump said during the US election campaign: “You can’t forget the bills. They have an obligation to make payments. Many Nato nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing.
“Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfil their obligations to us, the answer is yes [they can rely on our support].”
Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s General Secretary, criticised Mr Trump’s suggestion that the US may not come to the aid of alliance memberswho are attacked.
He said: “NATO’s security guarantee is a treaty commitment. All allies have made a solemn commitment to defend each other. This is something absolutely unconditioned.”
Defence spending in Nato fell in nominal terms from $1.06 trillion (£850bn) in 2008 to $871 billion last year.
There are also significant concerns about Mr Trump’s pro-Russian views. Since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, the US and Britain have taken an increasingly hard line against Russia and Vladimir Putin, its President.
However Mr Trump has said that he believes Mr Putin is a “strong” leader and wants to open talks with him to break the deadlock over Syria.
A Government source said: “His admiration for Putin as a strong character is worrying and people will need to work on him to explain the facts of life.
“There’s a school of thought that says now he’s in the White House he will soon knuckle under and not be so mad. The worst you can say is people have doubts and fears because he’s an unknown quantity.”
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