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Volume 623: debated on Monday 13 March 2017

I regularly discuss the need to reform NATO with my counterparts, including the new US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, whom I met at the NATO defence ministerial meeting last month. We want NATO to become a genuinely adaptable alliance that is less bureaucratic, faster and better at making decisions, and able to respond more effectively to a wide range of threats, including cyber, hybrid, and international terrorism.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. With NATO’s operation in Afghanistan still its most significant, will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to all those who have served? Does he agree that this underlines that NATO has the capability to combat terror and that it will need to do that more?

We remember the service and sacrifice of those who fought terrorism in Afghanistan. Our long-term commitment as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission remains crucial in helping to build the capacity of the Afghan security forces to defend their country. As my hon. Friend implies, it is NATO that has the mandate, the operational experience and the tools to help the fight against international terrorism, and we will continue to push NATO to do more in the middle east and north Africa.

When the Secretary of State had discussions with his US counterparts, did he talk about NATO’s capability to deal with any threat from Russia in the Baltics and elsewhere?

This is the year in which NATO is deploying its enhanced forward presence. I am proud that Britain is leading that deployment in Estonia. The first wave of our troops will leave for Estonia this week, and we will also be deploying in Poland and Romania. The best way to reassure our NATO allies and to deter any Russian aggression is for NATO to stand up.

It was made clear to us in a recent meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly that NATO still has a lot of allies on the hill—on both sides of Congress. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to help them to continue to make their case by Europe stepping up to its commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence?

Absolutely. We all made that commitment—the United States, ourselves and the rest of NATO—back at the Wales summit two and a half years ago. We meet the NATO spending target, and we continue to press our other allies to step up to the plate and do so, too.

May I push the Secretary of State to tell the House what the Americans are saying about what size NATO should be? That is about not just the percentage of GDP, but how big NATO should be, how that compares with the strength of the Russians, and what we would do if the Russians invaded across some of the countries of Europe.

There were three questions, to be responded to with the legendary pithiness of the Secretary of State.

The purpose of the alliance is defensive. Of course, the Americans want all its members to make a fairer contribution to its overall standing. The collective nature of our defence has been underlined by the fact that article 5 has been invoked only once before, in favour of the United States.