Vice President Mike Pence and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg both expressed an agreement Monday with President Trump’s calls for NATO members to increase defense spending and to adapt to modern threats.
The vice president spoke at NATO headquarters in Brussels following a speech in Munich where he said that the U.S. will be “unwavering in our commitment to this trans-Atlantic alliance.” President Trump criticized the NATO alliance on the campaign trail calling it “obsolete,” and demanding that nations pay more for their defense and prioritize fighting terrorism.
While Stoltenberg and Pence both cited the modern importance of NATO they stressed that NATO needs to and will evolve to face threats from terrorism and that countries need to fulfill the NATO defense spending requirement. The 28 nations in the NATO alliance agreed in 2014 to spend two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense by 2024. Only five of the 28 countries currently fulfill this requirement.
“Europeans cannot ask the United States to commit to Europe’s defense if they do not commit more themselves,” Stoltenberg said in his remarks. Pence echoed this and said, “As a candidate for office, President Trump actually called attention repeatedly to the fact that for too long, for too many years, this burden has not been shared fairly among our NATO allies and that must come to an end.”
The vice president added, “the time has come for our NATO allies to step forward.”
Stoltenberg was asked repeatedly by reporters what the consequences for NATO member nations would be if they did not fulfill the spending requirement and he did not firmly answer. The NATO secretary general stressed that all 28 countries agreed on this spending goal and that some will fulfill it “within a year or two.” “I expect all allies to keep the pledge they made as leaders in 2014,” Stoltenberg added.
The NATO chief also said in his written remarks that he and Pence agreed in a private meeting that “NATO is the most successful alliance in history because NATO has been able to adapt and change when the world is changing.”
Pence again referred to Trump’s comments on the campaign trail during his speech and said, “As a candidate a year ago, [President Trump] called on NATO evolve by expanding counter-terrorism operations. We’re encouraged to see under [Stoltenberg’s leadership] NATO is in the process of doing just that.”
Almost a year ago in Brussels, three suicide bombings took the lives of dozens of civilians, and Pence referred to this during his speech. “Your loss is our loss and it’s precisely why the president believes it’s essential that NATO continue on this new path of evolving and expanding its mission to be more effective in counter-terrorism.”