Posts Tagged ‘Jens Stoltenberg’

NATO’s Stoltenberg Says North Korea’s ‘Reckless Behavior’ Requires Global Response

September 10, 2017

LONDON — North Korea’s “reckless behavior” is a global threat and requires a global response, the head of the NATO military alliance said on Sunday.

NATO is not directly involved in the crisis, which saw Pyongyang carry out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test a week ago, but has repeatedly called on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“The reckless behavior of North Korea is a global threat and requires a global response and that of course also includes NATO,” NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with BBC television.

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Jens Stoltenberg

Stoltenberg declined to say whether the U.S. territory of Guam, threatened by North Korea, was covered by NATO’s Article 5, which says an attack on one member is an attack on all.

“We are now totally focused on how can we contribute to a peaceful solution of the conflict,” he said.

British defense minister Michael Fallon also told the BBC military conflict should be avoided at all costs.

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon wants to boost defence with Australia amid concern over North Korea and China.

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Nato chief: world is at its most dangerous point in a generation

September 9, 2017

Jens Stoltenberg warns of converging threats as Russia mobilises estimated 100,000 troops on EU’s borders

By  in Tapa
The Guardian

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Secretary general Jens Stoltenberg visits Nato battle group soldiers at Tapa military base in Estonia. Photograph: Raigo Pajula/AFP/Getty Images

The world is more dangerous today than it has been in a generation, the head of Nato has said, days before the mobilisation of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops on the EU’s eastern borders, and as a nuclear crisis grows on the Korean peninsula.

Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the military alliance, said the sheer number of converging threats was making the world increasingly perilous.

Asked in a Guardian interview whether he had known a more dangerous time in his 30-year career, Stoltenberg said: “It is more unpredictable, and it’s more difficult because we have so many challenges at the same time.

“We have proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea, we have terrorists, instability, and we have a more assertive Russia,” Stoltenberg said during a break from visiting British troops stationed in Estonia. “It is a more dangerous world.”

From next Thursday, over six days, Russian and Belarusian troops will take part in what is likely to be Moscow’s largest military exercise since the cold war. An estimated 100,000 soldiers, security personnel and civilian officials, will be active around the Baltic Sea, western Russia, Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, without the supervision required under international agreement.

On the other side of the world, in the face of local protests, the South Korean government has deployed the controversial US Thaad missile defence system as it looked to counter potential future attacks from North Korea, which recently launched a ballistic missile over Japan, threatened the US Pacific territory of Guam and tested a possible thermonuclear device.

Donald Trump has threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on the North Koreans should further threats be made against the US, and kept up the threat on Thursday, saying he is building up US military power.

“It’s been tens of billions of dollars more in investment. And each day new equipment is delivered – new and beautiful equipment, the best in the world, the best anywhere in the world, by far,” Trump said. “Hopefully we’re not going to have to use it on North Korea. If we do use it on North Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea.”

Trump has ruled out talks with Pyongyang for the time being and Washington’s diplomatic focus is now on efforts to secure agreement at the United Nations for much tighter economic measures, including an oil embargo and possibly a naval blockade.

A South Korean marine participating in an exercise this week.
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 A South Korean marine participating in an exercise this week. Photograph: Handout/South Korean Defense Ministry vi

Speaking during his visit to the Estonian military base in Tapa, a former Soviet Union airstrip about 75 miles (120km) from the border with Russia, Stoltenberg was coy when asked if he backed the US president’s bellicose threats to Pyongyang, blamed by some for exacerbating the current situation in south-east Asia.

“If I started to speculate about potential military options I would only add to the uncertainty and difficulty of the situation so I think my task is not to be contribute to that. I will support efforts to find a political, negotiated solution,” he said.

Pushed on whether he could even envision a military solution to the crisis in Korea, Stoltenberg said: “I think the important thing now is to look into how we can create a situation where we can find a political solution to the crisis.

“At the same time I fully understand and support the military message that has been implemented in the region by South Korea and to some extent Japan, as they have the right to defend themselves. They have a right to respond when they see these very aggressive actions. I also support the presence of US troops and capabilities in Korea.”

Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister whose 10 years in power were marked for his success in improving Norway’s environmental footprint, took over the role of Nato secretary general in 2014, forming a close working relationship with Barack Obama.

Soon after Trump’s election last year, however, in response to suggestions that the White House might back away from Nato, Stoltenberg made a pointed intervention highlighting the lives lost by the alliance’s members coming to the aid of the US after the 9/11 attacks. Trump had described Nato as obsolete during his election campaign.

In May, Stoltenberg took on the role of placater-in-chief after the US president used the occasion of the opening of Nato’s new building in Brussels, and the unveiling of a memorial to 9/11, to castigate 23 of the 29 Nato members for not spending enough on defence. A number of leaders were visibly startled by the nature and timing of the speech.

Asked this week whether Trump was the ideal person to unpick the current fraught security situation, Stoltenberg insisted the 29 Nato members were united within the alliance. “Donald Trump is the elected president of the United States,” he said. “And Nato is a collective alliance of 29 democracies. And that’s part of democracy, that different political leaders are elected.”

Donald Trump after pushing the Montenegrin prime minister, Dusko Markovic, aside as they walked through the Nato headquarters in Brussels in May.
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 Donald Trump at the Nato headquarters in Brussels in May. He had just shoved the Montenegrin prime minister aside. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA

He said he did not believe there was an imminent threat to Nato members, and that an increase in defence spending had strengthened the alliance in recent years.

Stoltenberg has completed a tour of the four battle groups stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, forming the Nato advanced forces defending the eastern borders.

Stoltenberg said the troops’ “defensive” mobilisation was a message to Russia that an attack on one Nato ally was an attack on all, and that he remained confident of the security of eastern Europe. But he expressed concern at Moscow’s imminent failure to live up to its international obligations for exercises involving more than 13,000 troops to be open to observers, including overflights. Some Baltic states estimate that about 100,000 Russian troops will be involved in this year’s exercise and Poland claims the Kremlin has requisitioned more than 4,000 train carriages to move military personnel west.

“Russia has said it is below 13,000. They briefed that on the Nato-Russia council a few weeks ago,” Stoltenberg said. “That was useful but at the same time we have seen when Russia says that an exercise has less than 13,000 troops that’s not always the case. We have seen that in Zapad 2009 and 2013 – the two previous Zapad exercises. There were many more troops participating.”

Stoltenberg said Nato had always offered up its exercises to scrutiny, “while Russia has not opened any exercise to open observation since the end of the cold war”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/08/world-most-dangerous-generation-nato-chief-jens-stoltenberg

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NATO chief says Turkey must show ‘full respect’ for rule of law

April 27, 2017

AFP

© DOGAN NEWS AGENCY/AFP | Turkish police escort people after their arrest for alleged links with US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen on April 26, 2017 in the central city of Kayseri

VALLETTA (AFP) – 

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned Turkey on Thursday it must fully respect legal due process, as Ankara continues to make mass arrests after last July’s failed coup.

“Turkey has the right to protect itself and to prosecute those who were behind the failed coup attempt but that has to take place based on the full respect of the rule of law,” Stoltenberg said as he arrived for an EU defence ministers meeting in Valletta.

“I attach a great importance to these values myself and this is an issue we have discussed with the Turkish leadership,” he added.

Turkey on Wednesday detained more than 1,000 people and suspended over 9,000 police in a vast new crackdown against alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of mounting the coup.

Erdogan earlier this month narrowly won a controversial referendum which gives him increased powers, sparking increased concerns in Europe over the country’s rights record.

But at the same time, Turkey is a crucial NATO ally, sitting at a strategic crossroads and providing the US-led alliance with its second biggest military component after the United States.

“Turkey is a key ally for many reasons, especially for its strategic geographic location bordering Iraq, Syria and all the violence, the turmoil we see to the south but (it is) also close to Russia and the Black Sea,” Stoltenberg noted.

The NATO secretary general, a former Norwegian prime minister, said he looked forward to an alliance summit in May in Brussels where all 28 member state leaders will be able to “discuss our common challenges.”

© 2017 AFP

Tillerson Clashes With NATO Allies Over Military Spending — Our nations “are bulwarks against the maniacs who think that by hurting us they can scare us.”

March 31, 2017

German foreign minister said U.S. demands on military spending were ‘totally unrealistic’

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prepare for a group photo of 28 foreign ministers a conference of foreign ministers on Friday. The meeting in Brussels is Tillerson’s first visit to NATO headquarters as secretary of state. Photo by Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. couldn’t “maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defense expenditures.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson squared off against his German counterpart on Friday as the Trump administration stepped up its pressure on allies to raise their military spending.

Mr. Tillerson said he wants member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to agree at their summit in May to increase such spending by the end of the year or to make concrete plans to reach2% of gross domestic product by 2024—a target the Germans have contested.

As part of that process, Mr. Tillerson suggested that the U.S. would want to see annual milestones that would ensure the defense investment pledgeis implemented by the 2024 deadline.

“As President Trump has made clear, it is no longer sustainable for the U.S. to maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defense expenditures,” Mr. Tillerson said at a meeting of allied foreign ministers in Brussels.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel acknowledged Germany should spend more but said demands for spending 2% of GDP were “totally unrealistic.” To meet the U.S. target, he said, Germany would have to increase spending by some €35 billion ($37 billion).

Mr. Gabriel declined to answer questions about whether Germany intended to develop the kind of spending plans pushed by the U.S.

Raising German military spending—now at about 1.2% of GDP—has long been seen by the U.S. as key to Europe shouldering more of its own defense.

Mr. Gabriel, a member of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party, has stepped up his criticism of further spending increases as September elections near, arguing that a strong defense isn’t enough to ensure security.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the ruling Christian Democrats, has been more supportive of increased military spending than the SPD, who is a junior partner in her governing coalition.

After President Donald Trump’s meeting with Ms. Merkel earlier this month, he made waves in Berlin by tweeting that “Germany owes…vast sums of money to NATO,” a charge German officials have dismissed.

Mr. Trump promised in his first budget proposal to boost U.S. military spending by $20 billion to “rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has embraced the push by the U.S. and said Europe must raise its spending and improve its military capabilities.

“Increased military spending isn’t about pleasing the United States. It is about investing more in European security because it is important to Europe,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on a visit to London where he met with his British counterpart, underlined the U.S. stance, and British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon called on allies to “raise their game.”

An official at the NATO meeting said there was “a reasonable consensus” for the call, with a number of allies detailing their plans. But officials acknowledged reaching agreement on the exact language of the spending plans will be a challenge, given Germany’s concerns.

Some allied officials predicted the alliance would agree on spending plans, but only after intense negotiation over language that could give countries a degree of flexibility.

Mr. Stoltenberg noted that the U.S. has demonstrated its commitment, including by adding troops in Eastern Europe this year as part of a force meant to deter Russia.

In London, Mr. Mattis said Russian aggression and the country’s alleged interference in foreign elections and in Afghanistan are matters of common concern between the U.S. and the U.K. Mr. Mattis said the West was confronting a range of challenges, from Iran’s alleged sponsorship of international terrorism to missile tests by North Korea.

“Our two nations are bulwarks against the maniacs who think that by hurting us they can scare us,” Mr. Mattis said. “They do not understand: We don’t scare.”

On Russia, Mr. Mattis accused Moscow of violations of international law, citing its annexation of Crimea and alleged interference in foreign elections. He also said the U.S. has observed “Russian activity vis-à-vis the Taliban” in Afghanistan, though he wasn’t specific.

Mr. Fallon said Britain, the U.S. and other allies “need to be extremely watchful now of this persistent pattern of Russian interference.”

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com and Jason Douglas at jason.douglas@wsj.com

Still Think Putin is America’s Friend? Russia warns of nuclear war unless US backs down over missiles in Europe — Ready to close Black Sea

March 28, 2017

Russia has warned of nuclear war if US missiles carry on being shipped into Europe.

 

Pentagon missiles in Europe and warships patrolling Russia’s borders could lead to nuclear war, warned Vladimir Putin’s military bosses.The anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) is provoking a “new arms race” and scuppers Russia’s ability to defend itself from a nuke strike, they said.Russian military bosses warned the ABM “lowers the threshold for use of nuclear weapons” and increases the risk of “sudden nuclear attack”.

“The presence of the global ABM system lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, because it gives the US the illusion of impunity for using strategic offensive weapons from under the protection of the ABM ‘umbrella,’” said Viktor Poznikhir, top brass for the Russian general staff.
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He added: “The ABM shield is a symbol of the build-up of rocket forces in the world and a trigger for a new arms race.”

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Scientists previously warned the US’s new nuclear weapons could force Putin’s hand into a nuclear conflict.

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Russian leader Vladimir PutinGETTYVLADIMIR PUTIN: US President Donald Trump hopes to improve relations with Russia

Trump labels reports of his ties with Russia “fake news”

Poznikhir said: “The presence of American ABM sites in Europe and ABM-capable ships in the seas and oceans close to Russia’s territory creates a powerful clandestine potential for delivering a surprise nuclear missile strike against Russia.”US attempts to trump Russia and China are heighting the risk of nuclear war, the Kremlin warned.The stark warning came at a nuclear disarmament conference in Geneva.

Trump: ‘Vladimir Putin is a better leader than Barack Obama’

Poznikhir said the US missile shield “narrows down the opportunity for nuclear reduction dialogue”.He said the Pentagon is developing the missile system to face Iran and North Korea, but ignoring objections raised by Russia.Russia warns the US will have 1,000 missiles at its fingertips which could pose a threat to them by 2020.

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/600613/Russia-Nuclear-War-US-Missiles-World-3-Vladimir-Putin-Donald-Trump-ABM-Shield-China-ICBMs

NATO head says more defence spending from European allies ‘essential’ to US ties

March 13, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | “In 2017, we must redouble our efforts to sustain the positive momentum and speed up national efforts to keep our pledge,” Stoltenberg said in a report, referring to members’ 2-percent defence spending commitment
BRUSSELS (AFP) – NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Monday told allies to boost defence spending, as demanded by US President Donald Trump, if they want to preserve crucial transatlantic defence ties.

“This is essential for the continued strength of the transatlantic bond on which our alliance is founded,” Stoltenberg said in NATO’s 2016 annual report.

“For almost 70 years the unique partnership between Europe and North America has ensured peace and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said.

“That is an achievement we can never take for granted.”

Trump caused dismay in Europe when he said on the campaign trail that NATO was “obsolete,” and failing to meet the challenge posed by Islamic terror groups.

His administration has repeatedly pressed the allies to meet a pledge to spend two percent of GDP annually on defence by 2024.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO allies cut defence spending only to find themselves caught out by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

NATO leaders, pressed by then US president Barack Obama, agreed the two percent target in 2014 and reaffirmed it at a 2016 Warsaw summit to counter a more assertive Russia.

The NATO annual report said only five countries met the two percent target — the United States, Britain, Greece, Poland and Estonia — while Washington still accounted for nearly 70 percent of combined alliance defence spending.

Overall, the US-led alliance reversed the downturn in 2015 and last year, defence spending rose 3.8 percent or $10 billion (9.3 billion euros), it noted.

“In 2017, we must redouble our efforts to sustain the positive momentum and speed up national efforts to keep our pledge,” Stoltenberg said in the report.

Meeting the two percent target has caused some soul-searching in Europe over what the wider impact will be.

Critics cite the example of Germany, currently on 1.2 percent of GDP but an increase to 2.0 percent would put Berlin’s defence budget on a par with Russia’s at around 65 billion euros.

Trump has also called for a $54 billion hike in US defence expenditure, currently at more than $600 billion, winning broad support but also criticism that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Europe must not cave in to US spending demands on NATO, says EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker

February 17, 2017

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker attends a debate on the priorities of the incoming Malta Presidency of the EU for the next six months at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker 

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that Europe must not cave in to US demands to raise military spending, arguing that development and humanitarian aid could also count as security.

US president Donald Trump has raised questions about his commitment to the NATO defence alliance if European countries do not raise defence spending to 2 per cent of economic output.

The United States puts up 70 per cent of alliance funds.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies on Wednesday that they must honour military spending pledges to make sure the United States does not moderate its support.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg brief the media during a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
US defence secretary Jim Mattis and NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg brief the media during a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 15 CREDIT: REUTERS/FRANCOIS LENOIR

“It has been the American message for many, many years. I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this,” Mr Juncker said in a speech on the sidelines of the international Munich Security Conference.

He said he knew that Germany would no longer have a budget surplus if it increased defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP from 1.22 percent.

“I don’t like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military,” he said, arguing it would be sensible to look at a “modern stability policy” made up of several components.

Watch | General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis sworn in as Trump’s Defence Secretary

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/17/europe-must-not-cave-us-spending-demands-nato-says-eus-jean/

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“If you look at what Europe is doing in defence, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different. Modern politics cannot just be about raising defence spending,” he said.

“Europeans must bundle their defence spending better and spend the money more efficiently,” he added.

NATO allies must pay more or US will ‘moderate its commitment’: Mattis

February 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP | US Secretary of Defense James Mattis addresses the press at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on February 15, 2017

BRUSSELS (AFP) – US Defence Secretary James Mattis warned NATO allies Wednesday that Washington would “moderate its commitment” to the alliance unless they boost their spending.”No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defence of Western values,” Mattis said in prepared remarks given to his counterparts at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

“If your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals need to show support for our common defence.”

Washington has long insisted that NATO members should spend two percent of their GDP on defence, a goal that few meet despite agreeing on it at a summit in Wales in 2014.

Consecutive US defence chiefs have hammered NATO on the topic for years, but Mattis’s call for cash — and his blunt language — carries extra weight as it comes after Trump while campaigning said US help for NATO allies might be contingent on how much they have paid.

“Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” he said.

Mattis called for “milestone dates” this year that would track NATO member contributions.

Currently, only the United States, Britain, Estonia, Greece and Poland have hit or surpassed the two percent figure.

“We must ensure we are not in the same spot at the end of the year that we are in today,” Mattis said.

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Trump defence chief Mattis hails Nato as ‘bedrock’ of co-operation — But also says all must “pay up”

February 15, 2017

BBC News

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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James Matttis, U.S. Secretary of Defense. Getty Images

The new US defence secretary has hailed Nato as the “fundamental bedrock” of trans-Atlantic co-operation, as he met defence ministers for the first time.

James Mattis’s reaffirmation of US commitment to the alliance comes after disparaging comments from President Donald Trump.

But Mr Mattis also reiterated Mr Trump’s demand that many Nato countries raise military spending.

The meeting comes amid concern over the new administration’s ties with Russia.

It also follows reports that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by deploying a new cruise missile, reports the Kremlin has dismissed.

Mr Trump’s comments, during his campaign, that the US might not defend allies who do not contribute their “fair share” to Nato, have worried many European nations, particularly those near Russia’s border.

He was critical of the Western military alliance, describing it as “obsolete”.


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But speaking in Brussels, Mr Mattis said the Trump administration had “strong support” for Nato.

“The alliance remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and the trans-Atlantic community, bonded as we are together,” he said.

While hailing the alliance’s ability to respond to security challenges, he said it was a “fair demand that all who benefit from the best defence in the world carry their proportionate share of the necessary cost to defend freedom”.

On the eve of Wednesday’s meeting, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg indicated a willingness to work with the US.

“The most important thing is that we increase defence spending and that is exactly what we are doing.”

As he arrived for the talks in Brussels, he said he was “absolutely certain that the message from this meeting will be a message of trans-Atlantic unity… and a very strong commitment of the United States to Nato”.

And he said the military alliance would have “serious concern” if reports that Russia had violated a Cold War-era treaty by deploying a cruise missile proved true.

Jens Stoltenberg

Jens Stoltenberg said Nato members were already increasing their contributions. AFP photo

Mr Mattis will have strong support from Britain, one of only five Nato countries to meet existing targets for defence spending, says the BBC’s defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus.

Speaking to reporters as he arrived for the meeting, British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, said he was looking forward to working with Mr Mattis on “the steps needed to modernise Nato, to make it more agile and more responsive and how we can persuade other countries to meet their fair share of the burden by increasing their expenditure to 2%”.

However, the resignation of Michael Flynn as US national security adviser – and the rumbling row over the Trump team’s contacts with Russia – is likely to cause unease among the 28-nation group, our correspondent adds.

As he travelled to the Nato meeting, Mr Mattis told reporters that Mr Flynn’s departure would have “no impact” on his role.

He praised Nato, calling it “the most successful military alliance in history”.

Mr Mattis has previously taken a different view to the new US president on various foreign policy issues.

He has warned that Washington has not taken seriously enough Russia’s military moves against its neighbours – annexing Crimea and backing separatists in Ukraine – and also criticised Mr Trump’s view that Nato was “obsolete” as “kooky”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38979190

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Nervous NATO allies put on brave face for Trump era

February 15, 2017

Reuters

By Robin Emmott and Phil Stewart

US Army soldiers walk across the front of an armored howitzer as the cargo vessel 'Endurance' moors in the background in Bremerhaven, northern Germany

US Army soldiers walk across the front of an U.S. armored howitzer delivered into NATO by ship during an exercise

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Nervous European allies put a brave face on the troubled debut of President Donald Trump’s administration, expressing confidence in U.S. engagement with NATO as they prepared to hear from Trump’s defense chief at talks in Brussels on Wednesday.

The meeting at NATO headquarters is seen as an opportunity for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to reaffirm U.S. commitment to European security after an election campaign in which Trump appeared to question the value of the alliance.

His administration was jolted again this week by the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was seen in Moscow as a leading advocate of warmer ties with Russia.

But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg dismissed concerns about the turmoil or U.S. backing for NATO.

“I’m absolutely certain that the message of this meeting will be a message of transatlantic unity, of the importance of that we stand together and protect each other, and a very strong commitment of the United States to NATO,” he told reporters.

Britain’s defense secretary echoed that mantra.

“There is no uncertainty about America’s commitment to NATO,” Michael Fallon told reporters when asked about the Flynn’s resignation. Denmark’s Claus Hjort Frederiksen said everything he had heard was “calming and reassuring.”

Still, European allies are expected to privately seek details from Mattis about Trump’s attitude toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which has guaranteed Europe’s security for almost 70 years.

Trump has deeply unsettled allies with his contradictory remarks on NATO – calling it “obsolete” but also voicing support – and with his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula, and its direct support for rebels in eastern Ukraine have prompted NATO to begin sending alliance troops to Russia’s borders to deter the Kremlin from any other moves. The White House said on Tuesday that Trump expected Russia to hand back Crimea to Ukraine.

One senior European NATO diplomat said allies are under no illusion that Trump might not still undo careful diplomatic work with a single message on Twitter. But they would still look for his support as they try to manage tensions with Russia.

“We need to bring the family together,” the diplomat said. “Things have been made to feel fragile.”

INCREASED SPENDING

In his debut trip to Europe as Pentagon chief, Mattis is set to echo longstanding U.S. calls that European allies invest more on defense, something his predecessors under Republican and Democratic administrations have done for years.

But experts say that message will have to be calibrated, because while Trump has eased off his criticism of NATO since taking office, he has maintained criticism of some allies for failing to make “full and proper financial contributions.”

NATO Europe argues it is increasing defense spending, upping outlays by $10 billion last year.

NATO defense ministers from Europe, Canada and Turkey will also want to hear from Mattis, who will be first to address the 27 other defense ministers on Wednesday, on how the alliance can meet Trump’s demands to do more to counter Islamic militants.

NATO says it is already active, training troops from Afghanistan to Iraq, and cannot do the work of police or social workers seeking out returning foreign fighters from Syria.

“We need to be clear that the response to international terrorism cannot be led by NATO, but it can a part of that,” a second senior European NATO diplomat said.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott and Phil Stewart, writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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