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The new US Defence Secretary, James Mattis, and I have already discussed a range of NATO issues. I welcome his public support for the alliance. The Prime Minister and President Trump also had positive discussions about NATO last Friday. The United Kingdom and the United States will lead forward battalions this year in Estonia and Poland, and I will work with Secretary Mattis on ways to improve NATO’s effectiveness.
It is quite true that President Trump has said that he supports NATO 100%, but the American Administration have also said that they would like to see changes in NATO to bring it into the 21st century. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with his opposite number about that? If he has not had such discussions, why does he not start them?
I have had those discussions, and I look forward to having further discussions when NATO Defence Ministers meet in a fortnight’s time, because we, too, would like NATO to continue to modernise; streamline its bureaucracy and decision making; improve the movement of troops, armour and equipment across its internal borders; and ensure that it can respond more rapidly and more effectively in times of tension.
Like the Secretary of State, I was pleased to hear that the United States remains 100% committed to NATO, the bedrock of the mutual defence pact. Does he agree that the best indication of the role of the US in NATO is the co-operation that we are seeing on bringing our carrier strike force capability back, rather than some of the commentary we are hearing in the media?
Yes. I was very pleased to be able to conclude an agreement with the US Government before Christmas on the US Marine Corps using the carrier to land its aircraft on. There are many more opportunities for deeper collaboration on that programme, and on the development of maritime patrol aircraft, where we are both using the same type of aircraft, as there are in the research and innovation areas that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend Harriett Baldwin, is leading on.