Glasgow: America under Donald Trump would come to Australia's aid in a crisis, despite the remarkable events of the past week, Defence Minister Marise Payne has said.
Ms Payne says that she is confident that Australia's defence alliance with the US is as strong as ever and while President Trump "thought outside the square box” that doesn't put Australia's national security at risk.
The Minister was in Brussels last week where Mr Trump demanded that NATO allies double – even quadruple - their defence spending, reportedly threatening to pull US troops out of Europe and “go it alone” if they didn’t.
He later claimed to have won new unspecified commitments for more and faster defence spending, and declared NATO was stronger than ever.
This week he again demonstrated dissatisfaction with the US’ role in guaranteeing his allies defence through the NATO mutual defence pact.
In an interview with Fox News, asked by presenter Tucker Carlson “why should my son go to (new NATO member) Montenegro to defend it from attack?”, the President replied “they’re very strong people, they’re very aggressive people, they may get aggressive and congratulations you’re in World War Three”.
Montenegro has recently come under political pressure from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and its prosecutors have alleged Moscow was behind an apparent coup attempt in 2016.
A former president of Montenegro’s parliament, Ranko Krivokapic, told the BBC “I hope Montenegro was not on the table in Helsinki”, referring to Mr Trump’s private meeting with Mr Putin on Monday.
Asked about Mr Trump’s comment on Montenegro, Minister Payne said that after last week’s NATO meeting the “outcomes are to work closer and harder together and strengthen the security of Europe and the international community”.
Asked if her confidence in the US alliance had been shaken by Mr Trump’s visits to NATO, Helsinki and in the washup, Ms Payne pointed out that she and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop would be on the US west coast next week to meet their US counterparts.
She said the decision to hold the meeting on the west coast was a “strong indication of (the US) commitment to the security and the stability of the region in which we both work and operate”.
The meeting would reinforce and strengthen the defence alliance between Australia and the US, she said.
“I’m absolutely confident that the foundations of that are as strong as they have ever been,” Ms Payne said.
“The international scene (is) filled with characters who don’t fit in square boxes and in this case it’s the President of the United States. The depth of our relationship its history and its breadth underpin the strength of the alliance and I am very confident of those.”
Ms Payne was visiting the BAE shipyards at BAE in Glasgow, where the Type 26 Frigate for the Royal Navy is being built - the basis for nine Australian “hunter class” frigates in a $35 billion deal announced last month.
Ms Payne said the visit had reinforced the value of the deal Australia had struck.
Australia has made a very strong commitment to make sure it was ready for the challenges of the 21st century in our region’s oceans, she said.