British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday that she and President Donald Trump reaffirmed the importance of NATO, the necessity of which Trump has repeatedly questioned.
May is the first foreign leader to visit Trump at the White House following his inauguration a week ago. She took the opportunity to publicly state the British view that NATO remains of vital importance to global security.
“Today we reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to this alliance,” May said at a press conference in the White House. “Mr. President, I think you confirmed that you were one hundred percent behind NATO, but we're also discussing the importance of NATO continuing to ensure it is as equipped to fight terrorism and cyberwarfare as it is to fight more conventional forms of war.”
Trump has repeatedly suggested that NATO, which was created in 1949 to counter the USSR, is obsolete. The 28-nation bloc provides security guarantees to member countries and indications Trump may abandon the alliance have caused great concern in Baltic nations. Russia’s incursion in and annexation of Crimea in 2014 has made Eastern European countries worry Moscow could have its sights on their territory, too.
May came to power in Britain following the country’s vote last summer to leave the European Union and has nationalistic views that echo Trump’s pledges to protect borders and restrict immigration. On Thursday at the annual Republican Congressional retreat, May described the “different future” Britain chose in leaving the EU.
“A future that sees us take back control of the things that matter to us – things like our national borders and immigration policy, and the way we decide and interpret our own laws - so that we are able to shape a better, more prosperous future for the working men and women of Britain,” May said at the retreat in Philadelphia. “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.”
But in that speech too May voiced her support of NATO, calling it “the cornerstone of the West’s defense.”
“America’s leadership role in NATO – supported by Britain – must be the central element around which the Alliance is built,” May said. “Because we know that so many of the threats we face today – global terrorism, climate change, organized crime, unprecedented mass movements of people – do not respect national borders. So we must turn towards those multinational institutions like the UN and NATO that encourage international cooperation and partnership.”
Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress have sought to reassure NATO allies that U.S. commitment to their security remains strong. Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota traveled to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Georgia in December to signal the U.S. remains focused on the region.