NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg drew bipartisan applause and some 18 standing ovations Wednesday as he made a case to Congress for the survival of the trans-Atlantic alliance that was built out of the ashes of World War II, but his most important audience was not in the room.
Stoltenberg acknowledged that Russian Federation is developing missiles outside the Cold War-era INF Treaty, but said NATO has no intention of deploying land-based nuclear missiles in Europe or mirroring Russian Federation missile for missile or tank for tank.
The celebrations were scaled down owing to concerns that President Donald Trump might, as has been his custom, hijack the summit and use it as a platform to renew his attack on European allies such as Germany, which he has accused of not paying its fair share in terms of defence spending.
"So of course, it is a possibility to look into the possibility of having also other countries in Latin America become partners which then provides a platform, a framework for close political and practical cooperation", he said.
Stoltenberg also solidarized himself with Washington over the Trump administration's ripping up of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, noting that "NATO allies have supported the United States position on that strongly".
This has prompted Mr Trump - with some justification - to question why it is that American taxpayers should contribute the lion's share of Nato's defence requirements when the main goal of the organisation is to guarantee the security of its European member states.
"We must overcome our differences now because we will need our alliance even more in the future". "NATO lasts because it is in the national interest of each and every one of our countries".
Stoltenberg met Trump on Tuesday. I remember the mood in the Ronald Reagan Building being upbeat, celebratory, with the leaders of its member-states hailing the alliance's attributes. "It is a simple fact proved by experience that an outside attack upon one member of this community is an attack upon all members".
While Stoltenberg tried to portray the increasingly acrimonious divisions within North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as "a sign of strength" and "democracy", US Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation anniversary event in Washington, delivered what amounted to ultimatums to both Turkey and Germany to submit to Washington's diktats, or else.
The alliance asks that each member spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense. "We discussed the measures we should take should Russian Federation not return into compliance", said Stoltenberg.
"Prior to our getting here, NATO's spending was going way, way down", he said.
Under NATO guidelines, each member country must keep its defence spending at 2% of its GDP at the minimum.
Greece comes second only to the USA in the ratio of its defense expenditure, spending 2.2 percent of GDP in 2018 compared to the US's 3.4 percent. He has repeatedly threatened various American allies to bill them for hosting USA troops and this has seen South Korea agree to a manifold increase in its financial contribution towards the deployment of United States forces on its territory.
On Wednesday morning, guest Fred Kempe, president and CEO of The Atlantic Council, disagreed with anti-Trump panelist Nick Burns and credited Trump for bolstering NATO spending on the eve of its 70th anniversary.
Since Mr. Trump took office, European allies and Canada have added $41 billion to their defense budgets. He expects that figure to rise to $100 billion next year.
Apparently addressing European pacifist distrust of defense spending, Stoltenberg said that "peaceful protest" and "dialogue" have not stopped aggressors from Hitler to Stalin to the Islamic State. He said allies also provide the US with valuable military support in peacetime, from tracking submarines in the Arctic to providing bases in Europe from which the USA can project power.