>> On top of that, they kill us with NATO, they kill us.>> President Trump's blasts at NATO have put the 70 year old alliance under major strain as he heads to a NATO summit this week in Brussels. But NATO watchers say the are putting their faith in US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to keep the alliance from hitting the rocks.
Foreign policy editor Mary Milligan:>> Mattis was not only a Marine Corps General, he was also a NATO Commander, so this is someone who understands deeply how the alliance works.>> And I think they've been a assuaged to some degree by his presence in the Trump administration.>> The alliance remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States.
>> European diplomats tell Reuters behind the scenes, it's been Mattis who's been quietly easing European bewilderment over Trump's policies. From the steep tariffs on imported metals, to his pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, to the praise Trump has lavished on Russian President Vladimir Putin.>> Getting along is really a nice thing.
>> Trump has repeatedly scolded Germany and other members for not shouldering enough of NATO's costs.>> I'm going to tell NATO, you've got to start paying your bills.>> But at the same time, Mattis has quietly won a 90 % increase in Pentagon funding for the European Deterrence Initiative, a program created in response to Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
Mattis has also helped clench an agreement on a new rapid military deployment plan meant to counter any threat from Russia.>> So you could argue that while it's a politically fraught moment at NATO, militarily the alliance is looking really good, and Jim Mattis' played a role in that.
>> Trump will hold a summit with Putin in Helsinki on July 16th, and NATO allies worry he might make security concessions to Moscow. Mattis has soothed some of those fears by being clear about his own concerns about Moscow.>> We have a long list of times that we have tried to engage positively with Russia.
We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.>> NATO leaders will open their two-day summit in Brussels on Wednesday.