Feb 17, 2021 - World

Austin warns of NATO threats and signals new era of cooperation with allies

Lloyd Austin, U.S. secretary of defense, speaks at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signaled a new era of cooperation during a NATO meeting Wednesday while warning of the threat from "strategic competitors," per a news conference with Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

Why it matters: Austin's first meeting with NATO defense ministers marks a clear shift from the previous administration. Relations with European allies became so strained under former President Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron referred to NATO as "brain dead."

  • It's clear from the message that NATO leaders should become more concerned about the threat posed by not only China, but also Russia, which enjoyed friendlier relations under Trump, per CNN.

What they're saying: Austin reaffirmed President Biden's message that the U.S. "intends to revitalize our relationship with the alliance," Kirby said.

  • "Secretary Austin emphasized that NATO's most important task is protecting our populations and territories by presenting credible deterrence and a strong military."

The big picture: In the first of the two-day virtual meeting, the defense chiefs examined proposals including strengthening allied commitment to deterrence and defense by providing incentives to contribute more capabilities and ensure fairer burden sharing, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels, per a statement.

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