Friday, March 31, 2017

Rex Tillerson renews demand on NATO spending at Brussels meeting

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson renewed demands that member nations meet their spending commitments in his first visit to NATO headquarters.

He is attending a conference Friday in Brussels of foreign ministers of all 28 NATO members. After weeks of concern that he would not attend, the meeting was moved up from its original April 5 date so he could be present.

Tillerson is scheduled to meet with Chinese officials in the United States on April 5.

Prior to the meeting, he spoke of President Donald Trump's demand that NATO members meet their spending commitments to fund the military bloc. Members agreed to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on military spending, but only five -- the United States, Britain, Greece, Estonia and Poland -- met the objective in 2016, NATO statistics indicate.

"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. Allies must increase defense spending to meet their commitments. Allies that do not have a concrete plan to spend two percent of GDP on defense by 2024 need to establish one now," Tillerson said.

He added a criticism of Russian involvement in Ukraine, saying "We want obviously to have a discussion around NATO's posture here in Europe, most particularly in Eastern Europe in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere." He said he seeks to use the Brussels meeting to "build on" NATO's counterintelligence strategy against the Islamic State to "bring stability to the Middle East."

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