Defense Secretary James Mattis spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, among other foreign leaders, on his first full day in office on Monday, signaling the importance he places on the alliance.
"Secretary Mattis spoke today by telephone with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to reconnect and discuss the key role NATO plays in transatlantic security," said a readout of the phone call by Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.
"The secretary, who previously served as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, wanted to place the call on his first full day in office to reinforce the importance he places on the alliance," Davis said.
President TrumpDonald TrumpMedia giants side with Bannon on request to release Jan. 6 documents Cheney warns of consequences for Trump in dealings with Jan. 6 committee Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official MORE repeatedly questioned the value of the alliance on the campaign trail but since becoming president has said NATO was "very important" to him.
In an interview with The Times of London and German newspaper Bild last week, Trump said he called the defense alliance "obsolete" because it was designed "many, many years ago" and "wasn't taking care of terror."
But he added that "they have a whole division devoted now to terror, which is good."
He also said member countries "aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States."
"With that being said, NATO is very important to me."
Mattis, during his confirmation hearing, called NATO the "most successful military alliance probably in modern world history, maybe ever."
He also said Trump "understands where I stand" and is "showing himself open" and asking questions.
Davis said Mattis and Stoltenberg discussed the importance of their shared values, and Mattis emphasized that "when looking for allies to help defend these values, the United States always starts with Europe."
"Both pledged to consult in the months to come and look forward to meeting in person during the NATO Defense Ministerial in February," Davis said.
Mattis also spoke with his counterpart from Canada, a NATO member.
The phone call with Canadian Minister of National Defense Harjit Sajjan was his first with a defense counterpart since being confirmed as secretary of Defense on Friday.
Mattis thanked Sajjan for his leadership and the deep and enduring defense partnership between the United States and Canada.
"Secretary Mattis and Minister Sajjan reinforced the vital importance of U.S. and Canadian commitment to North American defense and NORAD. Secretary Mattis emphasized the indispensable partnership with Canada across the spectrum of bilateral and multilateral security issues such as Iraq, NATO Enhanced Forward Presence and [Counter-Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant]."
"The two leaders also addressed the importance of North American defense relations among the United States, Canada, and Mexico," Davis said.
Mattis also spoke with his United Kingdom counterpart, State Secretary for Defense Michael Fallon.
"Secretary Mattis emphasized the United States and the United Kingdom will always enjoy a uniquely close relationship, reflected in our defense ties which are a bedrock of U.S. security."
"He also emphasized the United States' unshakeable commitment to NATO and he thanked Secretary Fallon for his country's commitment of two percent of GDP to defense and contributions to international security. The two leaders pledged to work together in the coming months, agreeing to maintain focus on defeating ISIL. They pledged to work closely and noted they looked forward to meeting at the upcoming NATO defense ministerial," Davis said in a readout.