NATO chief expects agreement on US readiness plan despite tariffs, Iran deal 'disagreements'

NATO chief expects agreement on US readiness plan despite tariffs, Iran deal 'disagreements'
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The chief of NATO on Wednesday said he expects allies to agree to a U.S. plan to boost military readiness even as he cautioned about “serious disagreements” among members over President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE’s tariffs, withdrawal from the Iran deal and exit from the Paris climate accord.

“These are serious difference between NATO allies,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a new conference in Brussels. “At the same time, we have to remember that we have seen differences before, all the way back to the 1950s where NATO allies disagreed on the Suez crisis or when France decided to leave the command structure in the 1960s or the Iraq War in 2003.

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“So it’s nothing new that there are difference between NATO allies, and what we have seen again and again is that we have been able to unite around NATO’s core task to protect and defend each other despite those difference.”

Stoltenberg was speaking ahead of a NATO defense ministers meeting later this week where Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' Pompeo backed continued US support in Yemen war over objections from staff: report Stand with veterans instead of predatory for-profit colleges MORE is expected to push allies on the so-called “30-30-30-30” plan.

Under the plan, by 2020 NATO would have 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 warships ready to deploy within 30 days.

NATO already has a rapid-reaction force of 5,000 troops meant to aid one of its members quickly if it comes under attack, but the 30-30-30-30 plan is meant to make the alliance even more nimble amid unabating fears of a resurgent Russia.

“High readiness is essential in a more unpredictable world, so I expect we will also agree a NATO readiness initiative, the Four Thirties,” Stoltenberg said Wednesday. "This is about establishing a culture of readiness, and we need that because we have a more unpredictable security environment, we have to be prepared for the unforeseen.”

The defense ministers meeting, which sets the stage for the NATO heads of state summit in July, comes after Trump announced a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum that includes NATO allies like Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Canada, the EU and Mexico have all announced retaliatory tariffs.

Trump also bucked allies last month with his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, which European countries are now scrambling to save, and with his decision last year to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Stoltenberg said he takes those alliance divisions “very seriously,” but that security cooperation has been increasing in spite of those issues.

“What we see now is that, yes, there are difference and this is something we take very seriously, but at the same time NATO is able to strengthen the transatlantic bond on security because North America, the United States and Canada, are actually increasing their presence in Europe with more troops, more prepositioned equipment, more exercises,” he said. “And European allies are stepping up. So I take the difference very seriously, but at the same time I’m encouraged by the fact that when it comes the security cooperation the transatlantic bond has actually been strengthened over the last couple years.”