EUROPE can no longer “automatically” rely on a predominantly American-funded NATO to ensure its defence from Russian aggression following the election of Donald Trump, senior military experts said today.

Top officials from three influential defence think-tanks told MEPs in Brussels that the new US president was serious with his comments about the continent’s underwhelming military spending and that a seismic shift has taken place in terms of American foreign policy.

They predicted that the Kremlin could look to test flimsy European defences in the Balkans region by encouraging ‘insurgencies’ amongst the ethnic Russian populations there, as they have done previously in Ukraine and the Crimea.

EU leaders have been alarmed by the decision of US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, to skip a crucial NATO summit next month to travel to Russia instead, something one official described as an “awful message” from the White House.

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