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.
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.”
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.
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.
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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
fate – n. power believed to control what happens in the future
asset – n. a valuable person or thing
referendum – n. 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