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Could NATO Survive without US Support?


Lithuanian troops practice during a NATO military exercise, 'Iron Sword,' at the Rukla military base some 130 km. (80 miles) west of the capital Vilnius, Lithuania, on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is seeking ways to save NATO if the United States decides to cut back on its support for the alliance.

European leaders are not sure what to expect under the new U.S. administration.

President Donald Trump has questioned the future of the 67-year-old alliance, calling it “obsolete.”

Trump accused European nations of not paying their fair share to support NATO operations. In addition, he has said the alliance has not been used effectively to fight terrorism.

On Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said she believes NATO should continue guaranteeing the security of Europe. But she thinks the alliance needs to be reformed.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledges applause before speaking during the 2017 "Congress of Tomorrow" Joint Republican Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jan. 26, 2017.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledges applause before speaking during the 2017 "Congress of Tomorrow" Joint Republican Issues Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jan. 26, 2017.

May spoke to Republican Party leaders during a visit to the U.S. city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

NATO cannot have one single “democratic mandate,” she said. Instead, it should seek to serve the needs and interests of all members.

“So I share your [Trump’s] reform agenda and believe that, by working together, we can make those institutions more relevant and purposeful than they are today.”

May also spoke about her talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. She said they discussed the need for the alliance to also be equipped to fight terrorism and cyberattack threats.

“America’s leadership in NATO – supported by Britain – must be the central element around which the alliance is built.”

The British leader also called on other NATO members to “step up and contribute as they should.”

She noted that Britain is the only G20 country other than the United States to meet a target promise to spend 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product on defense. At least 20 percent of this spending should be for military equipment, she added.

May said she already raised this issue with other European leaders and had urged them to meet the 2 percent defense spending goal.

European Union leaders are saying that now is the time for Europe to take more responsibility for its own defense. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently told reporters that “Europeans have our fate in our own hands.”

German Bundeswehr soldiers of the 122th Infantry Battalion take part in a farewell ceremony in Oberviechtach, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. As a part of the NATO program 'enhanced forward presence' 450 soldiers will move to Lithuania in the upcoming w
German Bundeswehr soldiers of the 122th Infantry Battalion take part in a farewell ceremony in Oberviechtach, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. As a part of the NATO program 'enhanced forward presence' 450 soldiers will move to Lithuania in the upcoming w

But military observers say it would be difficult for E.U. nations to recover from a possible reduction in U.S. support for NATO. Jonathan Eyal is a defense and security expert with Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.

“While there is a lot of discussion about closer cooperation in the European Union, there simply is no substitute for American military power. Up to 75 percent of all the military assets in NATO belong to the United States.”

Germany, France, Spain and Italy say they support closer military and intelligence cooperation among E.U. member countries.

Turkish NATO warship TCG Turgutreis, foreground, maneuvers on the Black Sea after leaving the port of Constanta, Romania, Monday, March 16, 2015, as an explosion takes place in the distance. NATO ships take part in sea military exercises in the Black Sea region involving ships USS Vicksburg, as well as a German auxiliary ship and frigates from Canada, Turkey, Italy and Romania.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Turkish NATO warship TCG Turgutreis, foreground, maneuvers on the Black Sea after leaving the port of Constanta, Romania, Monday, March 16, 2015, as an explosion takes place in the distance. NATO ships take part in sea military exercises in the Black Sea region involving ships USS Vicksburg, as well as a German auxiliary ship and frigates from Canada, Turkey, Italy and Romania.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

This idea also has the support of NATO’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. She spoke about the future of the alliance during a visit to the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

“Europeans have started to take seriously their security. We have started to do this, well before the U.K. referendum, well before the U.S. elections - because security is a priority for Europeans.”

On January 24, German and Belgian troops arrived in Lithuania in the latest NATO deployment. The troops are part of a 4,000-strong NATO force sent to Baltic countries and Poland. The forces were sent to NATO’s eastern border to guard against possible Russian aggression.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Henry Ridgwell reported this story for VOANews.com. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English, with additional material from the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Do you think European nations should take action to strengthen NATO if the U.S. cuts support? Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

obsolete adj. outdated and no longer used

mandate n. an official order to do something

relevant adj. current, having to do with the matter at hand

faten. power believed to control what happens in the future

assetn. a valuable person or thing

referendumn. a vote in which all voters cast ballots to decide an issue rather than representatives in government

contribute – v. to give or supply to others

G20 – n. short for the Group of 20 countries

Gross Domestic Product – n. the total value of goods and services produced in a country during a year

cyberattack – n. an attack on computers or computer systems

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