13:56 GMT01 June 2020
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    As US Defense Secretary James Mattis and US Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Europe to persuade America's allies to increase their spending on NATO, President Trump delivered a speech in Florida, in which he stressed that despite he is a "fan" of the military alliance, he wants allies to pay a fair share for their defense.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Trump said on Saturday that he was a "NATO fan," and urged other members of the military alliance to increase their defense spending in accordance with their obligations.

    "We must ignore the tired echoes of yesterday's fights. We are fighting battles that no longer help us, we are fighting battles that other people are entreating us fairly in the fight. I am a NATO fan, but many of the countries in NATO, many of the countries that we protect, many of these countries are very rich countries, they are not paying their bills… they have to help us," Trump said at a campaign rally in Florida on Saturday.

    On Saturday, speaking on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Michael Pence said that the United States remained strongly committed to NATO.

    Earlier on Friday, the similar statement were made by Defense Secretary Mattis. He stressed that President Trump has "thrown his full support" to the alliance.

    The issue of relations within NATO between the United States and other allies has become a relevant matter in recent months, after the election of Trump as the US president. During his campaign, as well as after the victory, the US politician has repeatedly criticized the alliance, calling for its member states to increase defense spending to fulfill their obligations as part of NATO.

    Only a handful of NATO members have reached the 2-percent target as of 2016. The United States is the top spender, allocating over 3.6 percent of its GDP on defense, followed by Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia and Poland. The remaining 23 members are below target.

    On Saturday, Former NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that NATO allies are capable of raising their defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2024. A day before it, current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the target would have to be reached in the next decade and NATO's spending on defense would gradually increase after years of cutbacks.

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