Trump sends his lieutenants to Europe to calm nervous nellies

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Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence will meet with European leaders still fearful over Trump’s election win.

One of the items on the agenda will be to get NATO member countries to pay their fair share in running the organization, instead of passing the bill onto the United States. Members of NATO are asked to spend two percent of their Gross Domestic Product on defense.

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Jens Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-Gen. Jens Stoltenberg (left) agrees that the allies must increase their defense spending and ease the burden on the U.S.

Stoltenberg said that in two phone calls to Trump, the new president “strongly expressed his strong commitment to NATO, but in both calls he underlined fair burden sharing.”

The NATO alliance has been the backbone of European security since 1949, initially formed as a defense against the former Soviet Union.

But Trump, when he was running for president, called the alliance “obsolete,” emphasizing that European members continue to welch on paying their share.

THE EUROPEAN AGENDA

Retired Marine Gen. Mattis will attend a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday. Mattis once served in the alliance and has fought alongside its troops.

Tillerson, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil, who has travelled the world for decades making energy deals, will meet Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, China’s Wang Yi and other new colleagues from the world’s great powers at Thursday’s G20 ministerial talks in Bonn.

Pence, who served on the House Foreign Affairs committee in Congress,  will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel at a Munich security conference before flying on to Brussels.

Merkel’s Germany was Barack Obama’s closest partner in Europe, but Trump has backed Britain’s decision to quit the European Union.

With the Netherlands, France and Germany facing national elections this year, EU leaders are worried that the White House, with a little help from the Kremlin, will spur the same populist forces that got Trump elected.

With a report from Dave Clark, Washington (AFP) Feb. 14, 2017

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North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Organisation du Traité de l’Atlantique Nord

 

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Expenses: $867 million (2015)

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