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G-20 digesting US warning to Nato and shift in Israel
[BONN] If the Europeans and the rest of the world were expecting assurances, what they got was an ultimatum on Nato and the US abandoning a long-held position on Israel that has the potential to roil the Middle East.
At a Nato gathering in Brussels, Defense Secretary James Mattis warned that the Trump administration is prepared to scale back its pledge to defend Europe unless ally nations increase military spending, and fast.
In Washington, President Donald Trump departed from more than a decade of US foreign policy by suggesting peace between Israelis and Palestinians could also be achieved with "one state" rather than a two-state solution.
Interpreting Mr Trump's latest policy switch and judging how seriously to take Mr Mattis's veiled threat falls to top diplomats and policy makers converging at the Group of 20 meeting of foreign ministers in Bonn starting Thursday, and the annual security conference in Munich that starts Friday and stretches through the weekend.
Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who will be meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for the first time, was taken off guard by Mr Trump's pronouncement on the Middle East peace process: "We don't know what is behind the comment".
"It's been policy for so long, it's hard to see how this evolves," Ms Malcorra, a veteran of the United Nations who ran for Secretary General, said in an interview in Bonn, the former West German capital.
"It'll be interesting. It's important to be careful and not to jump to conclusions."
For Jeffrey Rathke, a former spokesman for the State Department who is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr Mattis's strong words upend 70 years of accepted wisdom that the US would defend its Nato allies equally.
The "implicit delinking" of US security from European security, taken to extreme, means "we can protect our security on our own if you don't do it with us."
"That's a change," said Mr Rathke.
"I don't think there's any way around that."
During his election campaign and in interviews since his victory, Mr Trump demanded that European nations contribute a larger share to their defence. Mr Mattis appeared to drive that point home, insisting on a timetable to meet spending targets.
With Mr Mattis already making waves, Mr Tillerson has been making his international debut. In a morning meeting with his Saudi counterpart, a question was fired by a reporter at the back about the US back away from the two-state solution.
He declined to comment, but Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stepped in.
"We look forward to working with the Trump administration on all issues,'' he said.
"We are very very optimistic about our ability to overcome the many challenges in the region."