Pentagon chief James Mattis vows ‘unshakable commitment’ to NATO

January 24, 2017 10:30 pm

signs his confirmation letter to be named Secretary of Defense in Vice President Mike Pence’s Ceremonial Office in the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, January 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The new American government’s commitment to NATO will be “unshakable,” US Defense Secretary James Mattis has told his British counterpart Michael Fallon, playing down President Donald Trump’s criticism of the Western military alliance.
On his first full day in office, the new Pentagon chief “emphasized the ’ unshakable commitment to NATO” during a phone conversation with Fallon, according to a statement by Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.
He also thanked his British counterpart for the UK’s commitment to dedicate 2 percent of its gross domestic product to defense, an issue that Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May had discussed and agreed upon during a phone call in November.
Fallon and Mattis reiterated their plans to fight the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group in Iraq and Syria together and said they looked forward to meeting each other during NATO’s next defense ministerial summit in February.

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon (Photo by AFP)

Mattis’ remarks came days after Trump called NATO “obsolete” in an interview with the German newspaper Bild, saying he had warned long ago that it had problems.
“One; that it was obsolete because it was designed many many years ago, and number two; that the countries weren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay,” he noted.
Trump says NATO members should either pay for US military support or rely on their own military might at the time of war.
Mattis speaks to NATO chief
The new defense secretary, who once served as NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation, also talked to NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg over the phone on Monday.
According to Davis, Mattis “wanted to place the call on his first full day in office to reinforce the importance he places on the alliance.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to the press during a Foreign Affairs meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, December 6, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Mattis acknowledged the importance of America’s shared values with NATO and said Washington would always put its European allies first when it comes to defend those values.
In another phone call, Mattis talked to Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, reiterating the importance of the “indispensable partnership” between Washington and Ottawa as North American Aerospace Defense Command partners, NATO allies and North American neighbors.
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