NATO defense ministers are expected to discuss defense spending and the fight against terrorism at a Brussels meeting attended for the first time by the new U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis.
A day before the two-day meeting starting on February 15, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he was "confident" that the gathering would "reconfirm the enduring importance of the transatlantic bond" and called on countries to reassure the United States of their commitment to increasing defense spending.
NATO allies are also seeking assurances on the U.S. commitment to the 28-nation pact after U.S. President Donald Trump called it "obsolete" and threatened to withhold U.S. support unless members ramp up their defense spending.
Following nearly three years of aggressive actions by Russia, jittery NATO allies are also seeking assurances on the U.S. commitment to the 28-nation alliance after U.S. President Donald Trump called it "obsolete" and threatened to withhold U.S. support unless members ramp up their defense spending.
Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO member states that fail to meet the defense spending target of 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) and has called for fair burden sharing.
Stoltenberg said "defense spending has been the main topic" in his two telephone conversations with Trump.
In 2014, the year Russia seized Crimea and backed separatists ia war that has killed more than 9,750 people in eastern Ukraine, NATO leaders committed to halt defense spending cuts and move toward raising their military budgets to 2 percent of GDP within a decade.
Twenty-four of the 28 members have stopped cutting defense spending.
Stoltenberg said the United States, Britain, Poland, Greece, and Estonia are "already meeting the 2 percent target, " while Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania are getting close.
The Brussels meeting is also expected to boost NATO's involvement in the fight against terrorism, in particular against the extremist group Islamic State (IS).
With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AP