WASHINGTON – NATO must transform into a far more agile organization to protect member nations from evolving security threats and terror tactics, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Friday.
Fallon told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that amid a changing European political landscape — which includes his country’s negotiations to leave the European Union — Great Britain remains committed to its partnership with the U.S. and to NATO, calling the latter the “cornerstone of our defense.”
“We see Brexit as an opportunity not to step back from European defense, but to step up,” Fallon said at the Washington, D.C., event. He cited stronger bonds within NATO as particularly important, in light of recent Russian aggression.
He also cited radicalization, North Korea, his belief that Iran sponsors terrorism, spread of misinformation and cyberattacks as the challenges that demand an international response from NATO.
Strengthening NATO can show adversaries the cost of an attack would be far greater than any reward, Fallon said. He explained that given the increasingly amorphous nature of modern conflicts with adversaries who favor anonymity, deterrence must evolve.
“We’re not being attacked by these adversaries because we failed,” Fallon said. The West is being attacked because it succeeded in spreading the values of democracy, justice, freedom and tolerance, he said.
“No two nations are better equipped to make the case for the West than the United States and the United Kingdom,” Fallon said.
Fallon said there has been Russian interference in European elections, but declined to comment on any Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This came as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that President Donald Trump confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin about the alleged interference during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday.
Fallon said that Trump’s rhetoric has been helpful to encouraging NATO members to increase defense spending and commit to a date to fulfill the spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product.
“Your president was absolutely correct to say that European nations need to do more to shoulder their share of the burden,” Fallon said.
According to Fallon, 24 of the 29 member nations have raised their spending, and the alliance as a whole has increased spending by around $46 billion.