Mattis’ threat harkens back to comments made by then-candidate Donald Trump suggesting that NATO members aren’t fulfilling their obligation to the alliance.
He told the closed meeting flatly, "America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense."
Mattis told 27 of his counterparts in the alliance, "No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values…Americans cannot care more for your children's future security than you do."
He told his fellow defense ministers that each of them must draft a military funding plan for this year that comprises at least 2 percent of their respective gross national product. Mattis suggested that this was a "fair demand" based on the "political reality" of Trump having little in faith NATO, even criticising it as "obsolete" at one point.
In a statement, the Defense Secretary called the alliance, "a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the trans-Atlantic community."
Mattis also noted that "Some in this alliance have looked away in denial of what is happening." in reference to the presence of Daesh in Syria and Iraq, adding that "We have failed to fill gaps in our NATO response force or to adapt."
Author and journalist David Swanson told Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary that Trump’s constant flip-flopping could spell disaster for US relations with Europe.
"It’s hard to predict except to the extent that Trump has pretty consistently gone with establishment trends that were there before they came into office. Even when it’s (the opposite) of what he talked about in the campaign." he said, explaining,
"He talked about getting rid of NATO, saying NATO’s outdated, asking what purpose is served by NATO, saying the other members don’t pay their share and so forth. But as soon as he got to DC and someone said, 'Hey you can’t do that, we need NATO' he changed his tune entirely."
The US foots the bill for about 70 percent of NATO funds, and spends more on defense than all other members combined, with estimates suggesting that Washington has spent 3.61 percent of the country’s GDP on military spending last year.
Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky wasn’t rattled by Mattis’ comments, remarking that "it wasn’t that dramatic" and describing Mattis as "absolutely calm, humble even."
"This is not the U.S. telling Europe to increase defense spending," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, pointing out that alliance member agreed to increase military spending three years ago, "I welcome all pressure, all support, to make sure that happens."