TRUMP RECOMMITS TO AL­LIES

He also makes clear they must ‘pay their fair share of the cost’

New Straits Times - - World -

UNITED States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump yes­ter­day reaf­firmed sup­port for the US’ long­stand­ing se­cu­rity al­liances around the world but in­sisted that friends and part­ners from Europe to the Mid­dle East to the Pa­cific must “pay their fair share of the cost.”

In his first na­tion­ally tele­vised speech to Congress since tak­ing of­fice on Jan 20, Trump sought to re­as­sure al­lies still uneasy over doubts he raised dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign about his com­mit­ment to their de­fenCe and to main­tain­ing a US global lead­er­ship role.

But he also made clear that he ex­pects those coun­tries to shoul­der more of the bur­den of their own se­cu­rity needs, echo­ing a cam­paign mes­sage that some al­lies had taken ad­van­tage of Wash­ing­ton’s gen­eros­ity in pro­vid­ing them a se­cu­rity um­brella.

“Our for­eign pol­icy calls for a di­rect, ro­bust and mean­ing­ful en­gage­ment with the world,” Trump told a joint ses­sion of Congress. It is Amer­i­can lead­er­ship based on vi­tal se­cu­rity in­ter­ests that we share with our al­lies across the globe.”

He specif­i­cally as­sured North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Nato) al­lies of his new ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to the decades-old al­liance. How­ever, he made no men­tion of one of the main sources of Euro­pean con­cern: his friendly over­tures dur­ing the cam­paign to­wards Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

“We strongly sup­port Nato, an al­liance forged through the bonds of two world wars that de­throned fas­cism and a Cold War that de­feated com­mu­nism.

“But our part­ners must meet their fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions. And now, based on our very strong and frank dis­cus­sions, they are be­gin­ning to do just that.”

Then, de­vi­at­ing from his pre­pared re­marks, Trump added: “In fact, I can tell you the money is pour­ing in. Very nice.”

But he of­fered no specifics. Some crit­ics had ac­cused Trump of fail­ing to recog­nise the ben­e­fit that ac­crued to the US of hav­ing strong demo­cratic al­lies help­ing to sta­bilise volatile ar­eas like the Mid­dle East, Ukraine and South Asia.

Trump’s re­marks fol­lowed the de­ploy­ment ear­lier this month of se­nior cab­i­net mem­bers to Brus­sels, Bonn and Mu­nich, Ger­many, aimed at calm­ing Euro­pean wor­ries.

The Euro­peans heard from De­fence Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis that the Nato mil­i­tary al­liance was not “obsolete” af­ter all, de­spite Trump’s sug­ges­tions to the con­trary.

Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence told them that Rus­sia would be “held ac­count­able” for its ac­tions in Ukraine.

Mat­tis made his first for­eign trip to South Korea and Ja­pan, where he sought to ease con­cerns about what Trump’s self-styled “Amer­ica First” strat­egy means for US for­eign pol­icy in Asia.

While seem­ing to tackle some of the doubts of US al­lies, Trump still made clear that he wanted them to do more.

“We ex­pect our part­ners, whether in Nato, in the Mid­dle East, or the Pa­cific, to take a di­rect and mean­ing­ful role in both strate­gic and mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions, and pay their fair share of the cost.” he said.

REUTERS PIC

United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­liv­ers his first ad­dress to a joint ses­sion of Congress from the floor of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day.

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