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​Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis attends a NATO meeting at the in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 15, 2017. He is sitting between Britain's Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon and Montenegro's Minister of Defense Predrag Boskovic. DOD photo by USAF TSgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

—Brian Everstine

Defense Secretary James Mattis, in his first visit to NATO since his confirmation, warned the alliance that its member countries must increase defense spending or the US support for the group will “moderate.”

Mattis, speaking Wednesday in Brussels, said only five nations including the US meet the two percent spending requirement, with few others on track to meet it. But those nations need to do more, at a time when the US is carrying the majority of the load in the fight against ISIS, along with deployments to allied nations in Eastern Europe.

“No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of western values,” Mattis said. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s security than you do.”

While past American officials have pressed NATO to increase its defense spending, Mattis took it a step further with a threat to the alliance.

“America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense,” Mattis said.

The US has become impatient in waiting for NATO allies to pay more, and taxpayer frustration has grown into a “government reality.”

Despite the warning, Mattis sought the reassure NATO that the US remains committed to the alliance’s collective defense. NATO is the “most successful and powerful military alliance in modern history.” While it arose out of strategic necessity, NATO must evolve out of strategic necessity,” he said.

Mattis criticized​ Russia’s annexation of Crimea and outlined the deployment of US military assets to shore up the defense of Eastern European allies, but also noted that the US open to “a [more] cooperative relationship with Moscow.”