Tillerson pressures allies on defense-budget targets

In Brussels, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pressed North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Friday to ramp up military spending and denounced Russia's "aggression" in Ukraine, toughening the Trump administration's tone toward Moscow.

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told reporters before Friday's meeting that he thinks it would be "completely unrealistic" for Germany to bring its military defense spending up to 2 percent of GDP.

There had been some suggestion last week's federal budget would include new money for the military, but it instead delayed $933 million in planned spending on new defence equipment by six years.

Tillerson had stoked anxiety among the 28-nation organization when he initially indicated he wouldn't be able to attend the foreign ministers' meeting because it conflicted with a summit in Florida with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Germany has been very clear about not wanting to waste that much on military spending. In Berlin, German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the government was committed to increasing defense spending and would continue to do so "because we know it is necessary and makes sense to further strengthen our armed forces".

He was expected to leave before NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivers his closing remarks. And lastly, we want to obviously have a discussion around NATO's posture here in Europe, most particularly Eastern Europe, in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere. "Allies must demonstrate by their actions that they share USA government's commitment".

But Germany yesterday baulked at the USA demand for more European Nato spending, saying the alliance's agreed target spending of 2 per cent of members' yearly economic output was neither "reachable nor desirable".

"We have a legitimate question: can we expect any constructive approaches in the Russian-NATO relations when the alliance is stubbornly sticking to its old patterns, when the United States and its allies are obsessed with building up their military presence at our borders justifying it with the necessity of "containing Russia"?", the ministry noted.

Tillerson said that if countries have not met the 2 percent spending goal by the end of the year, they should at least have a concrete plan "that clearly articulates how, with annual milestone progress commitments, the pledge will be fulfilled".

"Crimea-related sanctions must remain in place until Russian Federation returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine".

However, according to latest OECD available figures based on gross national income, Germany spent more in relative terms on overseas development aid in 2015 than the United States - 0.52% of GNI compared with 0.17% for America.

He vowed that the USA administraiton will keep sanctions in place until Russian Federation reverses the actions that triggered them and oppose any further bid by Russian Federation to redraw Ukraine's borders.

The Trudeau government has sent its strongest signals yet that Canada does not plan to bow to US pressure to dramatically increase what it spends on defence.

The Afghan forces are expecting to launch a major operation against the terrorist groups as the new fighting season is getting close with the USA forces based in Afghanistan have already stepped up their fight against terrorism under a broader role granted to them earlier previous year.

  • Leroy Wright