Brussels, EU. The American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanded NATO members cough up money and condemned Russia’s “occupation” of Ukrainian territory in Donbass and Crimea with remarks percieved as Washington taking a tougher stance toward Moscow.
Tillerson’s remarks were made yesterday during his first encounter with NATO officials from the 28 nation alliance. Tillerson went on to forcefully declare America’s position on reluctant NATO allies, “As President Trump has made clear, it is no longer sustainable for the US to maintain a disproportionate share of NATO’s defence expenditures.”
Members of NATO countries originally agreed at a summit in Wales in 2014 to contribute the equivalent of two percent of their gross domestic product to defence.
Attempting damage control over the funding row, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said NATO members understood they had to increase spending not so much to please Washington but to counter new threats from both the east and the south.
“One option we are examining is national plans to deliver on the commitments we have made,” Stoltenberg said. Tillerson for his part urged his fellow foreign ministers to agree at the May summit to produce plans by the end of the year to meet the spending pledge.
US President Trump had stressed the need to improve US relations with Moscow after they had sunk to a low under president Barack Obama over the crisis in Ukraine.
However NATO members were now informed of a different vision of US-Russian relations as Tillerson told the alliance’s forum with Ukraine co-chaired by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin that “American and NATO support for Ukraine remains steadfast” in the wake of “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine” three years ago when it annexed Crimea.
“Today, Russia’s ongoing hostility and occupation is compromising our shared vision of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace,” Tillerson said.
NATO Allies had been alarmed at the prospect of Trump seeking to improve relations with Russia at the expense of support for the pro-Western government in Kiev or NATO allies in former Soviet parts of eastern Europe.
Members of NATO were alarmed when Tillerson initially planned to skip the meeting scheduled for next week, citing various commitments including a trip to Russia.
However, the fears were eased when he agreed to attend the talks co-chaired by non NATO member Ukraine that were conducted in Brussels this past Friday.