As NATO Faces Trump, European Nations See Mattis as a Key Ally

Donald and Melania Trump

Donald and Melania Trump

"Europeans spend on defense many times more than Russian Federation and as much as China and I think you have no doubt, Mr. President, that this is an investment in common American and European defense and security, which can not be said with confidence about Russian Federation or Chinese spending", Tusk said.

In direct costs, the USA now pays about 22 percent of NATO's "principal budgets" that are funded by all alliance members based on a cost-sharing formula that factors in the gross national income of each country. While that is down from more than $740 billion in 2011, it's still well above the outlay of all other members.

The ties between the US and many of its longest-standing allies have frayed since Trump took office and put his "America first" agenda into practice.

Mr Trump told reporters before leaving Washington there were "a lot of things going on" in the United Kingdom at the moment.

On Russia, Hutchison said there are signs Moscow is trying to court North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected in June and is moving to further consolidate power - including an ongoing purge of thousands of people from government jobs.

With his escalating complaints that the United States contributes more than its fair share to defense, and vague threats to countries that do not spend more, Trump is diluting the alliance's appearance of unity, say diplomats and analysts.

"Is the President just going to focus on defense spending and basically hijack the entire conversation?" says Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He vowed not to be "taken advantage" of by the European Union, which he accuses of freeloading by relying on the United States for its defence while blocking USA imports into the bloc, the world's biggest market. The US is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them.

"I do think Russian Federation is trying to flip Turkey; they're trying to flip many of our allies", Hutchison said. "Frankly Putin may be the easiest of them all", he said. Trump has argued that countries not paying their fair share are freeloading off the US and has threatened to stop protecting those he feels pay too little.

Still, Trump's "America First" approach to the military alliance that has been in place since the Cold War could already be altering the nation's relationship to the rest of the globe in ways that might not express themselves for years to come. We're being taken advantage of by the European Union. And, dear Europe, spend more on your defence, because everyone respects an ally that is well-prepared and equipped. For years, USA leaders have pressed allies to up their spending, rather than "holding our coats while we did all the fighting", as President Barack Obama put it in 2016.

A country's defense contribution shouldn't be measured only as a percentage of GDP, but also in terms of troops and hardware, she said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Berlin.

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