British officials want President-elect Donald Trump to “stand up” to the Russian government, rather than treat it as an “equal partner.”
“In practice every American administration has always stood up to Russia,” said British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, according to the Telegraph. “We’re not suggesting you shouldn’t talk to Russia but what you can’t do is treat Russia as business as usual, as any kind of equal partner. Russia is clearly breaking the international rules by what it did in Crimea and Ukraine and that can never be forgotten.”
Fallon pointed out that Britain sent 150 troops to Poland because British leaders believe Russian president Vladimir Putin wants to “test” the NATO alliance.
"Putin, I think, is testing the alliance and we have to respond," Fallon said. "We have to make clear that NATO is a defensive alliance but ultimately it is prepared to come to the defense of those members who feel very vulnerable, particularly on the eastern flank – countries like the three Baltic states and Poland in particular.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May said she sent the troops to “guarantee the rights of Poles and other Europeans currently living in the U.K., so long as the rights of British citizens living across the EU are guaranteed,” according to the Evening Standard.
"I hope we can reach an early agreement on this issue, providing certainty for Polish citizens here and British people living in Europe,” May added.
“For members of NATO itself, it is extremely important now that the alliance pulls itself together, NATO members increase their defense spending – Poland and Britain actually meet the 2 per cent commitment – and that we do reassure those members that feel extremely vulnerable,” Fallon said.
In an interview with the New York Times during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump expressed doubts about NATO and how involved the U.S. should be in the alliance.
“We have many NATO members that aren’t paying their bills,” Trump said. “You can’t forget the bills. They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.”