Trump: ‘Money is pouring into NATO’
President Donald Trump told Congress that “money is pouring in” from NATO countries to support the defense alliance.
Published: March 2, 2017, 8:06 am
He said NATO allies have boosted defense spending. “In fact I can tell you, the money is pouring in. Very nice.”
NATO requires that every member spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. Only five of the 28 member countries are currently meeting the 2 percent level, and no new commitments have been made since the NATO meeting.
In the 2016 summit in Warsaw, NATO ordered the deployment of additional troops to the Baltic States and Poland, citing vulnerability to the alleged Russian threat after Crimea rejoined the Russian Federation in 2014.
Moscow has repeatedly criticised the increase of Alliance’s troops and military facilities near Russian borders.
Trump said in his joint address to Congress on Tuesday evening that his administration’s “very strong and frank discussions” have paid off. Specifically, a White House official who asked not to be identified said the president was referring to Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, which have outlined plans to meet NATO’s target.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made a strong case before allied defense ministers at a NATO meeting last month, pressing them to fulfill their 2014 commitment to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024.
Five UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters wit a crew of nearly 50 arrived in the Latvian capital of Riga as part of NATO’s Atlantic Resolve operation.
The helicopters were unloaded from a transport plane on Wednesday and welcomed by officials including US Ambassador to Latvia Nancy Bikoff Pettit, RT reported. “We are thrilled to welcome so many excellent American soldiers, who will serve as members of the continuing US aviation presence deployed to NATO’s eastern flank in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Ambassador Pettit said at Riga International Airport.
“This year, thousands of US soldiers will rotate through Latvia…,” Pettit added. “You can be assured that they… are committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with our Latvian allies to protect the independence, sovereignty, and security of Latvia.”
“I see nothing but an incredibly bright future for US and Latvian relations because of how closely our two countries work together,”said Maj. Gen. Timothy Zadalis, US Air Forces in Europe vice commander.
White House aides confirmed Wednesday that the progress was real. “The response of allies to the case made by the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of Defense (among others) has been overwhelmingly positive,” Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Wednesday in an email to Bloomberg. “We expect to see stepped up defense spending commitments reflected in their next budget cycles.”
Meanwhile the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit policy research institution that receives more than 70 percent of its funding from the US Secretary of Defense’s Office, other US national security agencies, the Army, Air Force, and the Department of Health and Human Services, has drawn up a plan to send 7 NATO brigades supported by artillery and air power to the Baltics.
The think tank has presented the plan “to deny Russia a rapid victory” in a potential armed conflict with NATO.
The alleged purpose of deterring Russia with seven brigades, was revealed in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But RAND Corporation analyst David Shlapak told the SFRC that it would be a very costly decision.
“[For] a new armored division, your one time start-up cost is $13 billion,” Shlapak said. It would then cost another $2.7 billion per year to maintain the additional force, he told US lawmakers.
“A force of approximately seven 7 NATO brigades… supported by artillery and air power appears sufficient to deny Russia a rapid victory,” Shlapak told the hearing on Wednesday. “These forces must be on the ground and ready to fight on D- Day… It would likely be impossible to deploy them from Europe in a crisis.”
According to Shlapak NATO forces currently deployed could not protect Estonia and Latvia in the event of hostilities breaking out. “I wish to be clear and direct: NATO is not postured or prepared to defend its most vulnerable member states against a Russian attack,” he said.
War games conducted by RAND consistently showed a catastrophic collapse of NATO’s defenses within 36 to 60 hours in the event of any conflict, he added.
At the Munich Security Conference in Germany last month, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, noted that “NATO’s expansion has led to an unprecedented level of tension over the last 30 years in Europe.”
President Vladimir Putin has accused NATO of trying to provoke a conflict and also warned that the alliance, with its “newly-declared official mission to deter Russia,” and repeated attempts to “draw us into a confrontation” poses a threat to global security.
He condemned NATO states’ “interference in our internal affairs in a bid to destabilise the social and political situation in Russia itself”.
Germany’s foreign minister said Wednesday he is skeptical about his country’s plans to increase defense spending, saying it could raise concerns in Europe by turning Germany into “a military supremacy”.
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