President Trump will demand Brussels abandons plans for an EU Army if it wants the US is to continue its support for NATO.
Senior British officers serving at the Pentagon have been briefed that one of the new administration’s top priorities will be to “sweep away” plans championed by Germany and France.
”We have been told quite clearly that, in an environment in which the political temperature in Eastern Europe is high and fiscal pressure on budgets is increasing, there can only be one joint force and that is NATO,” he said.
“Senior US officers directing future strategy want to see more delivery from European nations. There is grave concern about the intent and growing talk of an EU Army, which appears to draw resources away from the Alliance.”
Burden sharing by Europe is expected feature highly during Theresa May’s visit with Trump next month, though Britain is one of only five members meeting spending targets.
Despite comments by President Trump calling NATO “obsolete”, new US defence secretary Gen James Mattis affirmed America’s commitment to the Alliance – and reinforced concerns against Russia.
“We have a long list of times we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia. We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard,” he told Congress on Friday.
While European defence spending is the primary concern, insiders warned that Trump would also be gauging Europe’s “boots on the ground” commitments.
The US currently fields six battalions in Europe, including the newly arrived 3rd Armour Brigade which boasts hundreds of armoured vehicles, including 87 tanks, and 3,500 troops to boost Nato’s efforts to deter Russia in Eastern Europe.
Of Europe’s NATO members, only Britain and France have put themselves forward to lead three of its remaining four battalions.
“President Trump is a numbers man. Defence spending is one thing, but when he meets with NATO chiefs in Brussels later this year, he will do the math: the US is deploying almost six battalions in Europe. How does this stack with Europe’s commitment? The US and Germany are playing their part but what about the rest?”, said another source close to the administration.
He said that Trump’s use of the word “obsolete” to describe Nato had been misinterpreted, adding: “He means that Nato must adapt to 21st Century challenges, including a counter–terror role.
“President Trump realises that, for just one per cent of the US defence budget, he can call upon 27 nations to stand up with it around the world.
“Europe supplied 40,00 troops to Afghanistan. That equates to 120,000 in real terms because for each soldier, two are in rotation. That’s 120,000 US troops who didn’t have to go to battle.”
During his campaign Trump pledged tens of thousands of new US troops, dozens of ships and hundreds of warplanes, plans would cost almost €93 billion more than the Pentagon has currently budgeted for Trump’s first term.
Rudi Giulliani, a key figure in Trump’s campaign, said the President was adopting a Reagan-like “peace through strength” strategy.
The former New York Mayor, who had dinner with Trump on Wednesday, said: “He believes that of the last 30 presidents of the last 50 -60 years, the most successful was Ronald Reagan, because he negotiated from strength and, lo and behold, won the cold war without firing a shot.”
The controversial 1000-strong Euro Corps was formed in 1993 and is spearheaded by a German- Franco brigade of troops. It provided HQ staff for operations in Afghanistan in 2004 and currently supports an EU maritime operation against pirates off Somalia.
Directed by Brussels it is manned by 10 EU member states and Turkey.
While in the EU, Britain used its influence to block its expansion.
Brexit was met with the immediate publication of plans to build a military new headquarters, as the EU scrambled to reinforce the project’s identity.
Separately, Germany’s defence white paper revealed its own ambitions to lead a pan-European force.
The moves have caused concern in the Trump camp.
“He is committed to NATO – but there is big concern about the EU moving towards an EU army, a military of Western Europe,” said Ted Malloch, President Trump’s new ambassador to the EU, recently.
Last night Ian Brzezinski, resident senior fellow with the Washington DC-based Atlantic Council think tank, said: “Where the EU is most effective is in leveraging its €15 trillion economic weight and in fostering economic development and democratic reform.
“When it develops military command structures and other military capacities it is institutionalizing duplications that serve no benefit.
“Nato is unsurpassed when it comes to so-called putting lead on a target and interoperability. The power of NATO-EU collaboration is found in their complementarity, not redundancy.
He added: “With the appointment of Gen Mattis, a big supporter of Nato, as defence secretary, and the current Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen Curtis Scaparrotti, President Trump has a hammer and anvil with which to accelerate Nato’s transformation. “